“Tarred, feathered, and spit-roasted …”
I can get behind Wes Anderson‘s Castello Cavalcanti being considered a short film. Yes, it’s a Prada ad like Candy before it, but this one actually has a story fun enough to make you forget. There is humor in the camera movements (with one pan brilliantly hitching at the scream of a man in the restaurant that the lens was about to pass); fantastic visual comedy thanks to the 1955 Italian setting, destroyed Formula One car, and stone-faced cast devoid of English; and a wonderful central performance by Jason Schwartzman doing what he does best with a part-manic, part-annoyed, and wholly confident delivery.
The premise is basically about the actor’s driver Jed Cavalcanti pulling up the rear of a race only to crash his ride into a monument seconds after the rest of his competitors fly by. Rambling on and on about how the steering wheel was screwed on backwards and a tire was losing air, his whirlwind search for a phone to yell at his mechanic eventually leads him to discovering the titular name of the village. It quickly advances from an Italian-American lost in the mother country to a young man surrounded by the actual stomping grounds of his ancestors to placing Jed at the side of his very own great uncle with as little joy and excitement possible.
It reminded me a lot of Schwartzman’s first scene in co-writer Roman Coppola‘s film CQ wherein the actor performs at an eleven while the camera follows him around. Anderson very obviously cuts often, but the smoothness of the pans make it feel like a single take flowing from start to finish. There are as many laughs earned from the stoicism on the periphery as in Jed’s calm epiphanies a la Jack Whitman in The Darjeeling Limited. The short is definitely a tonal precursor to The Grand Budapest Hotel in this way with its success in the details of a very meticulous set his characters engage in staccato conversations within. And besides the Prada logo on Schwartzman’s back, I would have believed it just that.