Wes Anderson, The Master of Montblanc's Meisterstuck

Of all the Wes Anderson films I’ve loved, this one is right up there, in its signature mesmerizing, stylized way. (It even includes a long shot of a pile-up of luggage.) But it’s also funny in an atypically laugh-out-loud way. 

Also uncharacteristic is the film’s three-minute length. That’s because it’s an ad -- or perhaps more of a sophisticated shill -- for Montblanc, the storied German luxury goods and penmaker.

But the biggest difference is that Anderson wrote, directed, produced and stars in this production. And he’s perfect in establishing its formal, stumbling, weirdly promotional but totally charming tone.

I’m still immature enough to laugh at long German words whose meaning I don’t know.  So I started giggling right at the beginning, with the title, “100 Years of Meisterstück.”



Although this one seemed easy to translate. It sounded like “masterstroke” to me. 

In this 180-second German romp, our main character, Wes, translates the word with the umlaut properly to “Masterpiece,” the title of the popular Montblanc pen introduced in 1924.

He says he admires the classic pen, but prefers the one he designed himself, which he has named “Schreiberling” (German for “scribbler.”)

He’s not kidding. His designer pen is a mini version with a green and yellow cap that will be released in the spring of 2025.

Not in the commercial is the fact that the maestro apparently showed up with the design when he arrived on set, unbidden by the Montblanc execs, but they are rushing it into production.

Let’s go back to the actual spot, as worthy an ad for the filmmaker’s brand as it is for Montblanc.

It opens on Anderson, face visible from under a fur-hooded parka, standing against what looks like a mountain peak in the Alps, holding a rope and a pickaxe. There’s a biting wind a blowin’ and the snow is coming down. He introduces the mountain and its namesake company, and packs a lot of Montblanc information in.

He’s quickly joined by collaborators/pals Jason Schwartzman and Rupert Friend, who make a perfect triangular composition in the frame as they talk about the company and correct each other on historical details of Meisterstück and its retractable nib (there’s a word I love). Friend is the nib expert. He comes in from the rear, carrying the “Montblanc Flag” with its stylized snowcap logo which he announces directly, though we can see it.

There’s something in the freezing conditions, the snow, and the serious, exacting tone that reminds me of old Timex commercials. One spot from 1971 affixed the timepiece to the “bottom of a ski” to show that it takes a lickin’. This ad is more meta.

The trio leaves to trudge inside a house. “It’s dropped like 10 degrees in 15 minutes,” Anderson says as they move into a lovely wooden ski-chalet-like interior. He had me wondering if they actually shot the spot in the French Alps, but (spoiler alert) it was all part of a meticulous set and sound stage in Germany that will be recreated in various places around the world to go along with the Meisterstück anniversary promotion. Currently, part of the set is reassembled in a Montblanc pop-up store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. It will be open until July.

One theme that keeps coming up among the three of them is Montblanc’s “two slogans”: “Inspire Writing,” and “Make Your Mark.”

The spot is in three parts: After the initial setup, the group hits the library, where Anderson announces that Montblanc “produces excellent pens and watches.” Friends holds up a bag and adds, “This article is an example of the very good leather goods” while Schwartzman shows “some more pens,” in a carrying case, as if he lifted them from a store.

"Let’s make our way to the writing room,” Anderson says, and the trio moves to the third part of the spot at the top of the house. “I furnished it with very good paper and ink and leather goods,” Anderson announces. Schwartzman adds “and pens.” 

Anderson decides that all three of them should sit down and write, and tells his mates “I thought I might write a novel set during the times of feudalism.”  Friend offers to read the first line in his plummy English accent, and does a comforting job of it: “It was a week before the solstice when Little Helmut finally realized that he was being hunted by a polar bear.”

They sit there scratching away with their luxury pens on the nice paper and make more dual slogan jokes.

It does leave its mark.

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