The universe of this shaggy-dog story reflects the influence of classic animators and Japanese auteurs both, but its attention to delightful detail and its sympathy for pack of furry leads are all Anderson’s own.
Many auteur directors create films that seem to exist in pocket universes as self-contained, circumscribed and minutely thought-through as the virtual-reality environment of a computer game or the fantasy setting of a paperback trilogy. Wes Anderson’s early films Bottle Rocket (1996) and Rushmore (1998) took place in more or less the real world, but concerned fantasists who tried to make their imaginings concrete (or at least papier-mâché) reality.
Since then, he has voyaged deeper into the universes created for each of his films and found avatars in visionaries and explorers like Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), the schoolboy theatrical impresario of Rushmore, and Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), the Jacques Cousteau figure in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) was set on an imaginary island and came – like every fantasy trilogy since Tolkien – with an invented map. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), a Russian doll of shaggy-dog stories, embedded human eccentrics in an imaginary institution (and country) visited over decades.