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travel

Following Wes Anderson to Milan

May 17, 2016
When my mom asked if I wanted to go to Milan for a spur of the moment work trip, the first thing I said was "Yes!" The second was, "I could go to the Wes Anderson's cafe."

The first movie that I watched repeatedly, rewinding in the age when you had to *hold down* the button the entire time was Wes Anderson’s, The Royal Tenenbaums. I daydreamed about growing up to be Margot, wooden finger and all, and fell in love with Richie Tenenbaum and Eli Cash. I developed an affinity for giant stone houses and Futura Boldface type.
 

Eventually, I started openly referring to him as my friend Wes. Yes, my friend Wes had an obsessive attention to detail; yes, he was a master of set design and champion of the captivating credits. He created worlds from his head to fit onscreen, something that I tried my best to copy, pouring my imagination into my notebooks, spinning out my worlds as best I could. I looked to him for guidance, safe in the knowledge that if Wes could put his stories into the world, then so could I. He’s a storyteller in every sense of what it means to translate the inside of your brain to those outside it, and he definitely has no idea, but he pushed me to tell my own stories.
 

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Photos by Beatrice Helman

 
 

Wes is eccentric, relatable, and an aesthetic dream; the pinnacle of creative expression, particularly for a fifteen year old girl just starting to realize there might be merit to the things inside her head.

 
 

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Bar Luce, a collaboration with the Fondazione Prada, is entirely designed by Wes Anderson. It’s a fan girl’s fantasy — all 1950 and 1960’s vibes with Formica furniture and color blocked chairs, waxy stamped napkins, and tiny croissants — It feels like a highly stylized movie set, or just the coolest cafe you’ve ever seen. Every single thing has been chosen for a reason. There are jukeboxes and retro clocks. The bathroom is an inspiration for bathrooms everywhere; it’s a black and white geometric heaven that feels more like a massive selfie booth than a bathroom. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the film that Wes made in collaboration with Prada, Castello Cavalcanti, which everyone should watch, since it’s only seven minutes and forty five seconds long.
 

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I felt like we were all participating in a movie but a movie that was just real life, going on ahead as usual but more magically here, the sun slanting over grape green and periwinkle purple chairs and waiters serving up miniature sandwiches. It was a three dimensional movie, a way to participate in an experience and then make that experience one of a kind, your own to live and direct however you want.
 
But what really got me was that I was sitting there, physically, my real body actually sitting, in the concrete incarnation of Wes Anderson’s mind. He had created something, and I was living and breathing his creation. I was ordering from a menu that he designed and eating tiny cookies that he chose. It felt like insight into the mind of my favorite visual artist but insight that I could walk on, and insight that included a Life Aquatic pinball machine and chocolate frosted cakes sealed behind glass.
 

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The longer I sat, watching tourists and regulars and locals come and go, the more that being there just felt like a remarkable gift. I’ve been to a lot of cafes in my time on this earth as a dedicated tea drinker, coffee shop dweller and WiFi thief. So, I feel pretty qualified when I say that Wes did it best.
 
 

Beatrice Helman is a writer and film photographer based in New York. She’s usually taking photographs and apologizing for not returning emails. Follow her Instagram to see her work!