Features and Columns · Movies

How Wes Anderson’s Nod to Hitchcock Exemplifies What an Homage Should Be

What is the difference between a lazy rip-off and an artful homage?
Wes Anderson Hitchcock homage
Fox Searchlight Pictures
By  · Published on September 14th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video about how a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain influenced Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.

There is a difference between homage and plagiarism, between paying dues to preexisting work and attempting to pass it off as your own. Even when homage is bad, it still isn’t stealing. A cheap visual reference may cash in on an audience’s nostalgia in a lowly and uninspired way, but idea thievery is something else entirely.

That said, the same metric to assess the presence of plagiarism is actually a pretty effective tool for sussing out what makes one homage “artful” and another one “lazy.” Quite simply: does it transform the work? Does it inflect the source material in some new, exciting, or unexpected way? Has it been shifted and made new in a different context?

The video essay below offers a case study in what makes a blatant recreation an inspired homage rather than a rip-off or an instance of theft. The case at hand is a sequence from Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel, wherein Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum), the attorney representing the estate of the late Madame D (Tilda Swinton), is stalked and murdered by J.G. Jopling (Willem Dafoe).

The video outlines in detail how the scene emulates and basically re-creates a sequence from 1966 Alfred Hitchcock film Torn Curtain in which Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) is similarly pursued. However, by imposing his own personal visual style, re-timing the pursuit, and inserting a score, Anderson succeeds in weaving something distinct that still bears recognizable connective threads to its source material. As a result, Anderson is able to play with audience expectations with exciting (if grisly) results.

Watch “How To Steal Like Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel“:

Who made this?

This video essay was created by Virginia-based filmmaker and video editor Thomas Flight, who runs a YouTube channel under the same name. You can follow Flight and check out his back catalog of video essays on YouTube here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.