REVIEW: ‘The French Dispatch’ takes viewers back to the glory days of literature


About 30 years ago, fiction writer Tony Earley wrote a short story called “The Prophet of Jupiter”, for Harper’s Magazine, which concerned the events of a particular city, from the perspective of a semi-literate narrator. omniscient so close to the characters, it was as if perched on their shoulders. It’s a sprawling, stunning work that seemed capable of encompassing an enormous amount of material, a sentiment shared by its author, who wrote it down in the author’s notes after being accepted for the “1994 Best American Short Stories”. Earley claimed the story was smarter than him, able to accept whatever he could think of to throw in it.

When it comes to built vehicles, Wes Anderson is no stranger to creating similar studded arrays that allow him to follow his specific – and powerful – creative whim wherever he wants to go. Indeed, as the director, now, of a dozen feature films, it can be said with confidence that he has taken the very concept of “picturesque” and “fantasy” (the two synonyms of “fantasy” easily proposed by google docs), and turned it into real, tangible art.

However, “The French Dispatch” could be its crowning glory. Not in terms of his actual films – I’d place that somewhere between “Rushmore” and “Moonrise Kingdom” in his oeuvre – but in terms of creating a structure and framework from which to operate his unique compositional blend , art-house style, prosaic writing and TOC directing, it may well have reached its zenith.

Said setting is actually firmly based on the fun spirit and substance of vintage copies of “The New Yorker” (the end credits include plenty of devilish homages to The New Yorker’s classic cover paradigm), a slightly dry literal tone that corresponds to Anderson’s famous stylistics. like a well-pedicured foot in a perfectly fitting argyle sock.

After establishing a brief history of the “Dispatch”, a former section of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun, known as “Picnic”, was hijacked by the publisher’s son, the late Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray), who intended to stay for several months in Ennui, France, and ended up living there for five decades (the magazine’s existence is listed from 1925 to 1975), the film is split, as the magazine , into distinct stories, more or less told by the authors of the pieces themselves.

The first piece, from the “Arts & Artists” section, set roughly in the 1950s, as described via an art lecture by writer, JKL Berensen (Tilda Swinton), is about an incarcerated mad genius from a painter, Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro), his lovely muse, prison guard Simone (Léa Seydoux); and Julian Cadazio (Adrien Brody), the equally incarcerated art dealer who “discovers” Moïse’s work, and sets up a megadeal, conditional on the artist producing a new body of material.

The second section, set in the 1960s, “Revisions of a Manifesto”, narrated by Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand), follows the trials and tribulations of a young political student, Zeffirelli (Timothee Chalamet), who leads a university uprising with the controversial help of fellow student Juliette (Lyna Khoudri), and which naturally falls in the bag with Krementz herself, who assists the boy by editing his own manifesto, much to Juliette’s dismay, among others.

Finally, we come across a story told from memory by the writer Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright), during a television interview, about a prison commissioner (Mathieu Amalric), whose young son is kidnapped by a group , orchestrated by the Chauffeur (Edward Norton), and must use his chef, Nescaffier (Stephen Park), to find a way to bring the boy back safely.


Along the way, there are plenty more casting cries from Anderson (including Owen Wilson, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, Lois Smith, Christoph Waltz, Cecile de France, Saoirse Ronan, Griffin Dunne and Willem Dafoe , to name a few), many of which feel like they’ve paused a bit on set, and more delightfully witty details – a sign at the Dispatch office reads “Silence: Writers Writing” – that you can’t possibly take in a single visualization. Indeed, it’s a bit like visiting a foreign country so incredibly beautiful everywhere you look, your brain has to partially shut down to not be overwhelmed.

Throughout the film, Anderson plays playfully with her composition. In a particularly stunning long shot near the start, a waiter carries a tray of drinks outside and climbs a winding exterior staircase, his path starting at the bottom left and climbing through the frame, in and out of view while he advances. at the top. In another, a man and a woman lie facing each other in post-coital rest, their heads next to each other. Anderson keeps jumping from one aerial shot to another, depending on who’s speaking, explicitly breaking the director’s line each time.

Color, as always in Anderson’s work, plays an important role. The color palette is equally expressive, from rich, deep hues to lighter pastels and black and white, losing its more traditional sense of formalism in favor of something far more eclectic. It’s like he’s pulled out all the aesthetic stops with this film, opening the floodgates to his signature style and letting it rip. Despite its resolutely meticulous construction, it seems to be one of his most liberated and uninhibited works.

Like Del Toro’s maniacal performer, the performances also seem poised to go off the rails. From the mannered mania of Brody to the stern coquetry of Seydoux, Anderson has won over most of his star actors (one of the rare failures, oddly enough, is Chalamet’s young intellectual, who is supposedly tortured and impulsive, but comes across as adenoid and wispy like his starter-kit mustache), which take on their richly decadent matter as if voraciously devouring a blancmange.


There is also a bittersweet burn of nostalgia, amid this colorful garden, a loving hymn to a more literate age in which devoted readers carefully absorbed such dense and whimsical prose, and life was all the more for it. vibrant and compelling. It’s the antithesis of internet/meme culture in which everything is eaten whole, without even chewing, and the appetite is apparently never appeased as a result.

Every frame of every shot seems perfectly placed, an impeccably manicured garden of these earthly visual delights, it’s not quite clear where to begin. Even the basic establishment shots, impressively framed by longtime collaborator Robert Yeoman, are so artfully composed that the effect is almost intoxicating. The narrative, set in layers of frames nested against and within each other, almost misses the conceptual splendor of what we see on screen. Rather, like one of Max Fischer’s elaborate school productions in “Rushmore,” there’s more pure, undistilled Anderson here than can be safely consumed in one sitting. It’s a full Anderson AMSR (Autonomous Meridian Sensory Response) experience, precisely calibrated to the director’s soothing tone.

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“The French Dispatch”

90 Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Lea Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Lois Smith, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Henry Winkler, Christoph Waltz, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Liev Schreiber, Elisabeth Moss, Griffin Dunne, Bob Balaban, Jason Schwartzman, Fisher Stevens, Anjelica Huston

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: R, for graphic nudity, some sexual references and language

Duration: 1h48

play theatrically

Self-proclaimed “artistic groupie” JKL Berensen (Tilda Swinton) is based on Rosamond Bernier, who gave popular and highly theatrical lectures including anecdotes about her famous friends such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse before founding her own magazine. art. The character is one of many based on real people in Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch.”


A “happy writer” who never writes (Wallace Wolodarsky), probably based on New York writer Joseph Mitchell who suffered from writer’s block for 30 years, publisher Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) and storyteller Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson), who looks a bit like Luc Sante, confer in “The French Dispatch”.


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