When Fischy Met Sydney


[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAwS2ecFse8&w=622&h=384]

“Every line matters,” exhorts Max Fischer. Seconds later, Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) eats a punch in the kisser. So much for never hitting a boy with glasses, I suppose. As ham-fisted as this mise-en-scène within-a-scene may be, the knuckle sandwich here is indeed food for thought.

Like the late Sydney Lumet and the real-life Serpico, now 75, Wes Anderson’s Fischer, then 15, is at least as authentic in plainclothes. Sure, Max may not have the badge to prove it, but he’s every hair the beard for Anderson (insofar as who he was at age 15). Why else would he have passed on nearly two thousand other kids before casting the then relatively green Schwartzman?

For Chrisssakes, Rushmore Academy is literally St. Johns School – Anderson’s Eton in his native Houston. And while it was co-writer Owen Wilson who actually got the boot from St. Mark’s, Anderson’s the one who owned up to an infatuation à la Ms. Cross. Regardless of how that one turned out, it seems safe to say that Kate Hudson, she was not.

Beyond the Futura font and Brit Invasion rock, re-watching Anderson’s films now – even out of context, as is the knock out scene from 1998 – I get the feeling that Wes Anderson, the auteur, might simply be Wesley Wales Anderson… dude. From Bottle Rocket to The Darjeeling Limited (I haven’t yet suffered his stopmotion fox flick), it’s as if every character is a slice of him.

Perhaps that’s why they’re so damn convincing.

Before Max Fischer, there was the lovable oaf Dignan – a bro if ever there were one. Next came an entire family of Tenenbaums, all of whom were much too vivid and far too real for Anderson to have dreamt up on his lonesome. By 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson had turned his gaze a bit more starboard. Still, it’s hard not to see this Dick-cum-Respiro tale as the magnificent Anderson’s own meta-evolution.

“Love, expulsion, revolution,” is the tagline on Rushmore’s theatrical poster. When you think about it, it’s a near Nicaea. Expulsion is nothing more than betrayal, however, done a priori. And by changing that middle noun ever so slightly, we then get something similar to a Serpico tagline, but also peculiar to nearly every Wes Anderson flick since.

Be it The Max Fischer Players’ offering of Pacino’s good cop or even their full metal offensive of Heaven & Earth from Ollie Stones Vietnam, when it comes to sussing out who’s really behind the lens, Max/Wes couldn’t be more right: every line matters, always. Ultimately, inasmuch as Rushmore’s concerned; I just wish both had more of ‘em.

True, Max Fischer most certainly had his hit coming. But again, at least as far as Rushmore matters anyway, I’ve been waiting for Wes Anderson’s two-punch for much longer. Here’s hoping his follow-up isn’t another cheap shot, but instead a cold knockout. If every line matters to Fischer, so too should every film for Anderson.

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image – Rushmore