‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ at 20: When Wes Anderson Imagined New York

Wes Anderson’s sprawling comedy-drama “The Royal Tenenbaums,” released 20 years ago this month, tells the story of a family of famous child geniuses, the disappointments and neuroses that define their lives as adults and a estranged father who causes his (fake) illness back together, under one roof in Upper Manhattan. It is Anderson’s only film to date that has been shot entirely in and around New York City, and his only entry into the Gotham Cinema Canon, which was formative for his youth in the Southwest.

Anderson, a Houston native, admitted to the New York Daily News in 2012: “I wanted to live in New York when I was young. A lot of the books, plays, and movies I love were set in New York. It really gave me an idea of ​​the city before I moved to New York.” here “.

But this wording – “idea of ​​the city” – is expressive. Anderson was not looking for credibility and veracity of a Native New Yorker (such as Spike Lee or Martin Scorsese); In fact, although “The Royal Tenenbaums” was filmed on location, its settings are unrecognizable, and the places where names are checked leave Gothamites in confusion. Much of the action takes place in the rotten Tenenbaum home on “Archer Avenue”, although daughter Margot has a “private studio in Mockingbird Heights” and the Royal Patriarch has spent the past several decades at the “Lindbergh Palace Hotel”. She studies a minor character at “Brooks College”; others travel by “Green Line Bus” or “22nd Avenue Express” train; Mentioned are the City General Archive, Maddox Hill Cemetery, Little Tokyo, Kobe General Hospital, Valenzuela Bridge, and in a true feat of city sprawl creativity, yes. “

The result is a New York that blurs fact and fiction, a fanciful vision of the city, less reflective of the realities of urban life than the imaginative notions of it rooted in Anderson’s sensibility. Many observers have noted the similarities between the Tenenbaum brood and the Glass family in J.D. Salinger’s short novel—many of which initially appeared in The New Yorker, a publication whose silly, crowded, and detailed covers seem to have little bearing on Anderson’s unique visual style. (His latest film, “The French Dispatch,” takes the influence even further, unraveling like a New Yorker-style magazine issue.) Other literary influences abound from the city as well, including the colorful characters of AJ Liebling’s profiles, the tense family dynamics of his stories. John Schaeffer’s Short, The Hotel Life of Kay Thompson’s “Eloise” books. In a way, “The Royal Tenenbaums” is the inverse of many New York films of the 1930s and 1940s – when on-site photography was so scarce, and film production was so central in Hollywood, that former New Yorker writers and designers recreated an idealized and imaginative vision Gotham’s backgrounds and sound tracks are clear across the country.

Leave a Comment