THE FRENCH DISPATCH: A charming anthology with the signature Wes Anderson touch
Directed by Wes Anderson
Stars: Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothèe Chalamet, Alex Lawther, Jeffrey Wright, Bill Murray, Stephen Park, and Owen Wilson
There are things one expects when they go into a Wes Anderson picture. The perfectly symmetrical shots throughout the film, with a colour palette that is so unique to his films that one can tell whom the director is just from the first look. The characters played by a plethora of big named actors, each with a name nearly as quirky as the character behind the name- each speaking in that unique dialect that is specific to an Anderson film. Its as if Anderson, aware of the mass popularity that is his style of film- decided to deliver the most Anderson-y Film of his career. One that is so self aware of his unique touch that it lavishes in it, in a singular scene Adrien Brody’s character discusses beauty of Del Toro’s characters art while making a distinct motion of perfect symmetry with his hands. A meta pat on the back by Anderson to his own beautiful symmetrical tales of the past. This film is a love letter for his own work, and for the lovers of his work who enjoy all the quirk and charm that come with them.
The staff of a European publication decides to publish a memorial edition highlighting the three best stories from the past decade: An artist sentenced to life imprisonment, student riots, and a kidnapping resolved by a chef
The masterful grip that Anderson has on his films, never letting the lunacy and absurdity of the stories ever take over his film- Anderson embraces the ridiculousness and masterfully controls it. Never letting the lines between the various part of the anthology ever blur too much and become messy, nor ever convoluting his own tale with the intertwined use of black and white, and colour shots as we go from story to story. Rather, each story gets a moment to shine and much like a newspaper the bigger and more “Important” stories come the further you go into the pages of the paper. We start off with a simplistic story about the history both in the past, and of the future, of the location that our stories will take place in- Ennui-sur-Blasé. Just there to set the tone and help us understand the location where the more important stories within the anthology take place. From there the editing is a marvellous spectacle of skill as we go between the French Dispatch newspaper headquarters and the discussions between the journalists, and their incredible stories each one so different, yet each with that patent Anderson charm.
The visuals are what you’d expect from Anderson. Beautiful symmetrical, each shot as pleasing on the eye as the last, and every single one giving enough for the eye to gaze on while still having his stars as the focal point. Countless shots in this will go down as my favorites from the year, especially during the Chalamet and McDormand story where we get some glorious moments of the two of them interacting in such Anderson ways. The score is nothing grand, but it sets the tone for the charming stories that are taking place.
The true shining point of The French Dispatch is the way that Anderson is capable of bringing out the best in every single one of the stars involved in the film. From bigger roles like Jeffrey Wright and Adrien Brody who carry so much heart in the story, to smaller roles like Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan who don’t have massive roles but still land in the parts that they have- making a visual impact as parts that I will remember. That’s always where Wes has succeeded and it’s extremely evident in The French Dispatch, that he has an incredible hand on his talent and finds the best way to make everyone feel like the star of his films, not just one or two names thrive under his direction, rather everyone in the ensemble gets a moment in the sun to showcase their abilities in his quirky tales.
The French Dispatch is now out for rent at a premium cost on VOD, if you love Wes Anderson this is likely going to be one you love- but the niche-ness of his work will definitely have some eyebrows raised. For myself, this is yet another great entry into his filmography and another beautiful film under his name.