Monday, April 4, 2011
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) - Directed by Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson's films seem to always balance a fine line between comedy and tragedy. Sometimes they spill over to one side or the other, but they usually remain well balanced. This one is about Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who in his later years is trying to woo his wife (Anjelica Huston) back and reunite his pathetic kids (Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller) back into the fold.
I think the first half of the film plays more comedy. It's a very particular kind of comedy though. Anderson's actors are always trained at the Bill-Murray-Deadpan-Dry school of acting. Nearly every ounce of emotion is drained from the actor's faces and they deliver every line in a monotone, dry voice. This stone-faced acting can be referenced back to the "The Great Stone Face", Buster Keaton. He acted in his silent films with the driest, most stone-faced expression. Watch a film like The General and tell me there isn't a line drawn to Bill Murray and the others in this film.
This is also a very self-aware and self-referential film, reminding me of the cinema of the French New Wave, particularly Jean-Luc Godard in films like Breathless, Band of Outsiders, and Masculin, Feminin and also Jacques Rivette's Celine and Julie Go Boating. These are films filled with in-jokes, cinema references, hipster moments of cool, and a pervading sense of self-awareness. That was what the The French New Wave was out to do. Break down the barriers of cinema and create movies for people who knew movies. They wanted to do things their own way and not follow the formulas. Anderson clearly enjoys making movies for people who like movies and doing it his way.
I really love Wes Anderson's movies. I don't think any actor/actress will ever win an award in any of his films, but it's his sense of direction that I love to submit to. There's a sense that he has complete control of what his film is doing and where it's going.