The Darjeeling Limited: Criterion Collection
October 11, 2010
Coming off the ambitiously mounted and complicated production that was The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), Wes Anderson wanted his next film to be much smaller in size and more intimate in scope. Initially inspired by living in Paris with actor Jason Schwartzman and later in collaboration with fellow filmmaker Roman Coppola, Anderson also incorporated elements from the films of Satyajit Ray, Jean Renoir’s The River (1951) and John Cassavetes’ Husbands (1970). The end result was The Darjeeling Limited (2007), a road movie set in India. While the setting may be new, Anderson is on familiar turf thematically as he continues to explore the dynamic between siblings that also featured prominently in Bottle Rocket (1996) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), as well as children dealing with, and ultimately coming to terms with, feelings for their father in films like Rushmore (1998), Tenenbaums, and Life Aquatic. While not as warmly received as other Anderson films, Darjeeling Limited has been seen as a significant change in the evolution of his career.
We meet Peter Whitman (Brody) racing for a train in India. He just makes it and is soon reunited on board with his brothers, Francis (Wilson) and Jack (Schwartzman). They haven’t spoken to each other in a year when their father died. Francis has invited them to partake in what he calls a “spiritual journey” in the hope that they will bond again as brothers. The impetus for all this came from a near-fatal motorcycle accident that happened to Francis and it made him confront his own mortality. He is a wealthy businessman who spends thousands of dollars on clothes. Jack is a writer who has been living in France for the past year and has recently broken up with his girlfriend (Natalie Portman). Peter is a married man about to become a father. In some respects, Francis is like a slightly older Dignan from Bottle Rocket. He has grand plans and everything mapped out on his laminated itinerary.
Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman do an excellent job of portraying brothers who deeply resent each other. They bicker and get on each other’s nerves, much like siblings really do but they also stick together when facing a common threat or problem, like when they rush to the aid of three boys whose raft capsizes in a fast moving river.
Anderson uses the Whitman brothers’ journey as an excuse to immerse us in the sights and sounds of India. The country is awash in vibrant colors, especially blues and yellows. While The Darjeeling Limited features Anderson’s trademark stylish camerawork and meticulous framing, it is also his most introspective effort to date. After the bluster and pyrotechnics of Life Aquatic, he tones things down with Darjeeling Limited as the Whitman brothers reconnect and try to repair some of the damage done since their father died. Anderson has crafted a soulful film where you really feel like you’ve been on a journey with these characters.
The first disc starts off with “Hotel Chevalier,” a short film that acts as a prequel of sorts to The Darjeeling Limited and provides a backstory to Jack. In France, he meets with his ex-girlfriend in his posh hotel room. The usually modest Natalie Portman shows quite a bit of skin in this film and shares quite a sensual moment (especially for an Anderson film) with Jason Schwartzman’s character.
Also included is a theatrical trailer.
There is an audio commentary by writer/director Wes Anderson, co-writers Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola. The three of them start off discussing their writing process and how one’s subconscious plays a role. They touch upon various aspects of the production, including production design, cinematography, and so on. Interestingly, the three of them were responsible for their own Whitman brother to write for. A lot of the commentary is spent recounting all kinds of filming anecdotes.
The second disc starts off with a “Conversation with James Ivory.” He and Anderson talk about the Indian music used in the film. Anderson was influenced by and used several musical cues from Ivory’s films. The veteran filmmaker talks about some of his early Indian films with clips illustrating some of the music from it that Anderson used.
There is a visual essay by Matt Zoller Seitz about the film and how it best sums up everything about Anderson’s films. Seitz provides fascinating analysis over clips from the film and the short film as well.
Also included is a 40 minute making of documentary by Barry Braverman. It takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to the production with plenty of footage of Anderson and his crew filming on location. The documentary provides some fascinating insight into what it must be like to make a film there and how Anderson adapted his methods there.
“Sriharsh’s Audition” features footage of a child Indian actor trying out for the film.
There is a deleted scene and two alternate takes that run just over three minutes. We see Peter Whitman playing cricket with some Indians. There is an alternate take of the three brothers running down a hill and then one of them trying to board an airplane.
Also included is a clever American Express commercial that Anderson shot around the time of Life Aquatic. In it, the filmmaker slyly parodies the notion of making a film while also paying homage to Francois Truffaut’s film Day for Night (1973).
“Oakley Friedberg/Packer Speech” is a slideshow presentation that a boy made while his parents were working on Darjeeling Limited. He and his folks about helped out the locals while they were there.
“Trophy Case” is an amusing little bit about the “awards” that the film won.
“Waris’ Diary” is a collection of very brief snippets of behind-the-scenes footage not shown in the documentary. They provide additional insight into the production.
“Stills Galleries” features photographs by on-set photographer James Hamilton and also candid snapshots by Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody’s mothers.
Finally, “Sketch by Roman Coppola” is footage of Anderson, Coppola and Schwartzman traveling through India while they were talking about and writing the screenplay for Darjeeling Limited.