Blog Directory CineVerse: Tale of a deadbeat dad who makes good--Wes Anderson style

Tale of a deadbeat dad who makes good--Wes Anderson style

Thursday, July 6, 2017

To some extent, all families are dysfunctional and chaotic. But the clan depicted in Wes Anderson's "The Royal Tennenbaums" certainly creates a new template for the flawed family in the 21st century--a precocious tribe that tells a cautionary tale about the dangers of resentment and the virtues of forgiveness and acceptance. "Tennenbaums" is chock full of substance, visually, thematically, symbolically and otherwise. Consider the following highlights of our CineVerse group discussion on this picture:


WHAT THEMES ARE AT PLAY IN THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS?
  • Loss and redemption: the rise, fall, and rise of a prominent family. 
  • A patriarch who’s primarily responsible for his family dysfunctionality and eventual functionality.
  • The redemption of a familial outcast and pariah who, despite his less advantageous socioeconomic condition, seems the happiest and most grounded of all his family. Criterion Collection essayist Kent Jones posited that “each (Anderson) film is centered around a character from a little lower on the economic ladder, whose aspiration to be part of the exclusive milieu dovetails with an undercurrent of mourning and a longing for family.”
  • “The thorny individualist who must eventually learn that his choices, like it or not, affect others—sometimes profoundly and not always for the best,” suggests reviewer Jaime N. Christley; this is a recurrent theme in many of Anderson’s works.
  • Love and sincerity can bind a family that’s drifted apart back together again. Consider that only when Royal stops lying and is honest, generous and complimentary does the family reunite and harmonize again.
  • Life is like a big, sprawling novel filled with interesting characters and marked by different chapters. Consider that the film employs a framing device of the voiceover “reading” of a novel, chopped up into different chapters about the Tennenbaum family.
WHAT DID YOU FIND INTERESTING ABOUT THE COLORS, COMPOSITIONS, ART DIRECTION AND CAMERA STYLE?
  • Anderson often lingers longer than most directors on a shot, letting the scene breathe and showing us actions and reactions by the characters without cutting back and forth as much.
  • He uses a lot of warm colors and reds in this film—with red signifying anger (Chas’ tracksuit), energy and power (the fire engine), royalty (the wall paint color of the Tennenbaum house), and violence (Richie’s blood).
  • Anderson is well known for framing symmetrical compositions, with one or more characters perfectly centered within the frame; it’s been theorized that this underscores the characters’ penchant for structure and order, despite the fact that their lives are usually disordered and chaotic. 
  • Every set appears carefully curated with finely detailed visuals, including hand-picked d├ęcor, costumes and accoutrement that are significant to the filmmakers. 
  • Nearly every shot look painterly, neatly composed, and worthy of a still image that could be framed and cherished in a gallery.
THIS FILM FEATURES AMPLE ANIMAL IMAGERY. WHAT ANIMALS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERS AND WHY?
  • Royal: a boar; there’s a boar’s head hanging in the home that falls down when Royal is booted out by Etheline
  • Chas and his kids: mice and dogs; the mice make us think of three blind mice scampering around aimlessly, despite Chas’ fastidiousness; and it’s interesting that Chas isn’t able to reconcile with his father and his family until after his beagle is killed and Royal gives Chas a Dalmatian firehouse dog—with spots similar to the mice he owned.
  • Richie: a falcon; like the falcon he sets free, Richie tries to take wing and escape via a sea voyage and, later, suicide.
  • Margot: zebras; she plays a zebra in the play she wrote, her room’s wallpaper is replete with zebras, and she and Richie rest beneath a zebra at the museum. Blogger Kevin Lee wrote: the black and white stripes of the zebra correspond to the black and white spots of Chas’ Dalmatian mice. Maybe because Royal views both Chas and Margot as second rate to his favorite, Richie.”
  • Henry: a “grizzly bear.”
  • Eli: he holds dangerous snakes in a magazine cover photo and sits under a mounted bull’s head; he’s a cowboy who acts more like a wild stallion, according to Kevin Lee.
ANDERSON WAS INFLUENCED BY CHARLES SCHULZ’ PEANUTS COMIC STRIP. CAN YOU CITE ANY EXAMPLES OF THIS INFLUENCE IN THIS MOVIE?
  • Like many of the Peanuts characters, some of the Tennenbaums consistently wear the same costume, like Chas’ red tracksuit, Margo’s fur wardrobe, Richie’s headband, Henry’s blue blazer, and Raleigh’s corduroy brown blazer.
  • We hear “Christmas Time Is Here,” from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” during a scene.
  • Chas has a pet beagle; Snoopy is a beagle.
  • “Like Schulz, (Anderson) isn’t afraid to dangle his characters over the edge of the abyss, even if he’s unwilling to let them go,” wrote The Dissolve’s Keith Phipps.
THIS MOVIE CAN BRING OTHER FILMS TO MIND, SUCH AS: 
  • The Magnificent Ambersons
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Amelie—another movie with bold, interesting colors and compositions
  • Napoleon Dynamite: quirky characters 

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