With acclaimed filmmaker Wes Anderson’s highly anticipated latest The French Dispatch one of countless films to be indefinitely delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no time like now to embark on a retrospective of the auteur’s works. Those lovely folks at The Criterion Collection have been slowly releasing each of his celebrated works in their prestigious collection, with The Darjeeling Limited now joining the series.
Released in 2007, The Darjeeling Limited is arguably Anderson’s most accessible work. While it certainly retains a lot of the hallmarks of an Anderson project, the overt quirkiness found in some of his more zany films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel is minimal here. Instead, the film presents a surprisingly gentle and poignant tale of self-discovery and connection. The film’s look is undeniably the director’s idiosyncratic style, with the distinctive slow motion, symmetry, and soft colour palette. But the film’s structure and narrative seem far more, for lack of a better word, mainstream – this is a simple tale, simply told.
The three core cast members – Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman – are flawless, with chemistry to die for. Their performances feel lived in, and the result on screen is three brothers that you believe have grown up together despite becoming estranged. Schwartzmann, who also stars in the prologue short film Hotel Chevalier (also included on the Blu-ray) is particularly excellent, and continues to be the personified Wes Anderson style-incarnate in his look and delivery of the poetic dialogue.
The Darjeeling Limited is a truly beautiful and visually breath-taking film that is ripe for reappraisal. In my experience, it is a film that many overlook – even Anderson fans, who rarely utter it in the same breath as The Royal Tenenbaums or Moonrise Kingdom – and that needs to change. I would argue that the film is, in fact, one of Anderson’s finest, despite being one of the farthest entries in his filmography from his signature style. There’s a whole lot to love here, and while some might be put off by the fact that, on the surface, very little happens, this is one of those films that is about nothing and yet everything.
The Darjeeling Limited is a beautiful and tender film with endless heart and charm, and this new Criterion Collection Blu-ray gives it the release it deserves. With a wealth of special features and a gorgeous transfer supervised and approved by Anderson, fans of the film should not hesitate in adding this disc to their collection.