Targeting 'Darjeeling' with borrowed Ray gun


If you're a fan of indie auteur Wes Anderson, you know he has a way with music. From the British Invasion-era rock that complements composer Mark Mothersbaugh's wildly inventive score for 1998's "Rushmore" to Brazilian recording artist Seu Jorge singing David Bowie songs in Portuguese in 2004's "The Life Aquatic," Anderson repeatedly has exhibited an inspired musical vision that fans of his idiosyncratic work have come to expect.

Anderson's latest, Fox Searchlight's "The Darjeeling Limited," expands his unique flair for film music in ways no one could have expected -- including, it seems, the director himself. The Brit chestnuts are still there in the form of Anderson staples the Rolling Stones and the Kinks, but the biggest surprise, sonically speaking, is that for the first time the director chose to work without the safety net of an original score. Instead, he boldly borrows original music from a handful of classic Indian films to provide a distinctly regional musical backdrop for "Darjeeling's" picaresque tale of three brothers attempting to bond while traveling across the subcontinent by train.

"I had originally planned to not use any music at all," Anderson says, adding that he initially planned to use only a few snippets of music from the films of legendary Indian auteur Satyajit Ray. "Ray wrote a lot of the music for his own films. (Since) he was one of the big inspirations for the movie, I started looking into making (his music) a part of our movie because I just wanted to connect to his movies and pay homage. More and more I found that his music really seemed like it was in sync with the spirit that I wanted our movie to have."

Smitten with Ray's compositions, Anderson realized that the "Darjeeling" soundtrack was becoming "wall-to-wall music," rendering an original score unnecessary. "For long stretches of the movie, it's really one cue after another," he says.

Ever the film buff, Anderson's admiration for Ray is evident in his willingness to enthusiastically dissect even the most obscure titles in the late director's filmography. But, as he recalls, if it weren't for the technological advance known as Betamax -- and the fact that he had exhausted all of the choices at his local video store as a teenager -- it might have taken him much longer to stumble upon one of the true icons of world cinema.

"The first of the Ray films I saw is called 'Two Daughters,' " he says. "I saw that movie on a Beta tape when I was in high school, and I was very caught off guard by it because I kept seeing it in the video store, and I didn't know what it was. Because I had kind of drained the video store near our house (of movies), I finally rented it ... and I loved it."