One of the things I really appreciate about Wes Anderson’s films is their distinctive visual identity. I admit upfront that I’m not his biggest fan; I’ve always found his work to lack an emotional punch, though his last two films – Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom – have shown significant improvement in that department. But irrespective of what one thinks of his films, I’d argue that all it takes is looking at a single frame from any of them to recognize the man behind the camera. With dioramic settings, flattened central compositions, costumes perfectly coordinated with the decoration and brightly saturated colours, Anderson has created an aesthetic character for his work that belongs only to him.
The Royal Tenenbaums, one of Anderson’s stronger films, is filled with such delicious images. I could have chosen any of the shots featuring the identically clothed Ari and Uzi for their sheer comic value, or any of the ones featuring a desolate Gwyneth Paltrow with a cigarette in her hand. In the end, the shot I found myself drawn to the most was the one that moved me the most.
Richie (Luke Wilson), former tennis professional who’s heartbroken ever since his adopted sister and love interest married another man, enters the bathroom. He stands in front of the mirror and cuts, first, his long hair, then his beard, and then his wrists. Though Wilson’s dialogue portends what’s about to happen, the outcome still comes as a shock both because of its graphic nature and because in a film with generally manufactured emotions, it feels uncharacteristically, intensely real.