Classic Wes Anderson from 2001, restored to high definition with a digital transfer supervised by the director himself. More on that later.
As noted on the ‘Squid and The Whale‘ Blu Ray Special Edition Features, during the interview with director Noah Baumbach, this film and ‘Squid and the Whale‘ (also rereleased via Criterion Collection UK, out now) were two projects in discussion around the same time. Anderson made ‘Royal Tenenbaums‘ immediately in 2001, before bringing in Baumbach to produce his next feature ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou‘ in 2004. Anderson would then produce the Baumbach directed ‘Squid and the Whale‘ in 2005. Both RT and ‘Squid…’ have a series of connections and disconnections within unit of the family.
In this case, ‘The Royal Tenenbaums‘ features an all-star cast in a typical Wes Anderson ‘dysfunctional family’ narrative. Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) separates from his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston). After 22 years of isolation Royal seeks to talk to his three genius children once again. Luke Wilson is Richie Tenenbaum, a champion tennis player. Gwyneth Paltrow is playwright Margot. Finally, Ben Stiller is Chas, who invests in real estate. All of their talents, for one reason or another, become a thing of the past. The narrative is then progressed as Royal attempts to reconnect with his family.
The visuals are key to this film. The mise-en-scene is rich in detail. In the special features, during the ‘With the Filmmaker‘ segment, we see Anderson on set discussing the books that are to be placed on a bookshelf. This materialises in the film as Margot is stood reading from her own fictional play, stood in front of said bookshelf. You can tell that positioning and imaging means everything to a meticulous Anderson. The colour palate is also striking. All of this is crystal clear in HD.
In the special features, filed next to a wide variety of interviews and behind the scenes footage, is a featurette; ‘The Peter Bradley Show‘. This is a television show presented like it is on the televisions in the main feature, only involving some minor characters. The result is a tongue-in-cheek piece, the main point being that self-awareness… yet it is still taken seriously.
Needless to say the film itself is fantastic. We get great performances from the cast, fitting into a narrative that is fine detailed and full of subtle nuances. Next to the ‘The Life Aquatic‘, ‘Moonrise Kingdom‘, and more recently ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel‘, this is a film set in stone as a must-see.
‘The Royal Tenenbaums‘ is released on BluRay on 5th December 2016 in the UK.
[rating=5] | Zach Roddis
Comedy, Drama | USA, 2001 | 15 | Criterion Collection UK | 5th December 2016 (UK) | Dir.Wes Anderson | Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson | Buy:(The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]