Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The Royal Tenenbaums
Today I watched the Royal Tenenbaums for the first time. Have you seen it? There were parts I liked, and parts I didn't (at times it felt quite contrived) but one of the things I loved was the city around them.
In documentary filmmaking (which is something that my darling brother is reading a lot about these days) there's a type of film called a "sensory autograph" - a movie that gives you the idea and the feeling of a place and the people. It's something that he and his friend J will try to accomplish when they go to Rwanda (now in August), and it's something that I think Mr Anderson does very well with New York, or at least his version of the city.
In this piece on Flavorwire (the post that inspired me to watch the movie in the first place), they talk about how Mr Anderson, originally from Texas, had a picture of New York City that he'd pieced together from the New Yorker and the like - a New York that wasn't exactly New York, but was his own version that he then tried to recreate in the film. So in a way, The Royal Tenenbaums isn't just about a dysfunctional prodigal family but also a sensory autograph of this other New York, a place that Texas kids dream about when it's too hot out sitting in air-conditioned hallways with their bare feet against the other wall (at least, maybe, in my overactive imagination), a place that is pieced together from Talks of the Town and movie reviews and the captions beneath cartoons. I get that. I've been to New York properly just once, on a class trip in eighth grade (the other times I've been through catching a bus to Philadelphia), and since then my picture of New York is also mostly New Yorker articles and vague recollections from June when I was thirteen - a restaurant with flowers on the table and a tour of a tenement house reenactment on the Lower East Side. And I combine those pictures with "The Shitkickers of Madison Avenue" (one of my all-time favourite Talk of the Town pieces) and reviews of restaurants and other people's blogs who happen to live in New York.
So, real New Yorkers, is your New York City like the Royal Tenenbaums? Do you find your city in magazines and on the Sartorialist and Salinger novels? What is the city like?
(photo from here)