Edgar Wright’s (Visual) Language Development

Edgar Wright
(Gage SkidmoreCC BY-SA 2.0)

Drew McWeeny on the development of Edgar Wright’s filmmaking style:

I’ve noticed something, and I think it’s anecdotal at this point, but interesting nonetheless. Edgar Wright grew up in a fairly rural part of England and he didn’t have a VHS player in his house until he was in his late teens. As a result, he saw movies, but mainly just contemporary films or movies on free television. He’s a movie junkie now, but he wasn’t one in his formative years. As a result, I think a lot of his film language is his own, and not borrowed or recycled. I’ve seen this in a few guys who didn’t have VCRs when they were younger, and who only really started watching movies of their own choice in their late teens or early twenties. They kind of develop their own idea of how things should work.

Yes, he really flipped out when he saw Raising Arizona and the films of Sam Raimi, but whatever stylistic signatures he learned from the people he admired, Edgar has long since turned that into his own particular visual language. I’ve said this over and over, and I’m amazed how often I talk to people who just don’t see this: film is more than just pictures that tell a story… it is a language. The people who make the best movies, who make movies that matter and that stick to you in some way… they’re people who have mastered that language and who understand how delicate it is. So many filmmakers make movies that are technically competent and professional, but that have absolutely no sense of voice. They look like movies, but the language is all wrong. Edgar is a guy who innately got it, and who speaks it so fluently that even when he’s shooting on a budget and a schedule like “Spaced,” what he turns out has more style and substance together than much of what A-list Hollywood churns out.

McWeeny also comments on the nine minutes of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World footage that Wright showed at the Los Angeles Film Festival:

MTV premiered a small bit of this scene during the Movie Awards recently, but this full scene plays like a dream. It’s got a rhythm and a build and a huge pay-off. It’s a skillful little mini-movie, and I would imagine the entire film must feel like this. Tight. Energetic. Visually rich. And very, very funny. The way the scene plays out and wraps up is wild, and just based on what I’ve seen so far, I think Kieran Culkin is going to steal this movie from everyone. He’s sort of amazing as Wallace.

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