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Wes Anderson: “Salinger Inspired Cinema”

Ash: There are a lot of attitudes going on here… don’t let me get one, too.

Kim Morgan at The Huffington Post writes about the influence of J.D.Salinger’s A Catcher in the Rye on movies since its publication. Of special relevance to this year’s Oscar contenders, she singles out Wes Anderson as the closest cinematic equivalent of Salinger and his affinity for the disconnections of alienated youth.

From his sensitive screw-ups of Bottle Rocket to his youth in revolt Max Fischer of Rushmore to the poignantly unhappy, yet beautifully eccentric Tenenbaum family of The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson might be the closest cinematic heir to J.D. Salinger, both aesthetically and thematically. Influenced by Salinger’s Glass Family (seen in Salinger’s stories and the novel Franny and Zooey), the Tenenbaums are a group of child prodigies who’ve become glamorously broken adults. Biding their time in a fairy tale New York, the family appears suspended by their own memories, and live in a city that comes to the viewers as a dream, or how we envisioned that particular metropolis as children. And Anderson makes no secret about his homage. It can’t be a mistake that the name Tenenbaum so closely resembles that of Beatrice “Boo Boo” Glass’ husband, Mr. Tannenbaum.

And Gwyneth Paltrow’s raccoon-eyed Margot Tenenbaum’s mink coat has become about as iconic as Holden Caulfield’s red hunter’s cap. Some critics (I think they’re wrong, but they continue saying this) even slap Anderson with the same kind of derision Salinger received after his triumph of Catcher in the Rye. Both have been called overly precious, overly privileged and overly adoring of characters living in a vacuum of nostalgia and sweetness, dislocated from reality. Well, yes, and no. In the case of yes, and especially regarding Tenenbaums, like Salinger, their dislocation, their family of pressed butterflies is part of the point. And that’s part of the artists’ inspired, delicate and funny tragedies. Salinger, who, again never wanted any of his fiction turned into motion pictures after that one disappointing early attempt, found a loving and suitable, though inadvertent prot√©g√© in Anderson. Anderson’s nostalgia and inertia and style is the substance, and all of his movies leave one with a bittersweet pain. As Henry Allen wrote of Salinger in a recent remembrance, and something that could be said of Anderson as well, “Hemingway was a writer who made unhappiness beautiful. Salinger took it a step further — with the same uncanny ability to evoke the world his characters move through, he made it a virtue.”