Michael Lee’s thoughts on Wes Anderson’s latest film are hot off the presses.
The French Dispatch marks the return of idiosyncratic auteur writer/director and all-around visual pioneer Wes Anderson. The film is Anderson’s follow up to Isle of Dogs and the critically acclaimed feature The Grand Budapest Hotel. Behind the whirlwind tapestry of colorful décor, flat compositions and visual pomp, the film is an experience that embodies the quintessential spirit of this iconic director. It’s an eccentric, engaging, and at times needlessly intellectual affair, that pays whimsical homage to the worlds of Journalism and Frenchness.
The film is structured in sections from a supplement magazine from the fictional newspaper The Liberty Kansas Evening Sun. In effect The French Dispatch is a portmanteau film, an anthology of three shot films hopscotched together in the magazines format. The film opens with an obituary for the editor, and follows up with three stories based on articles by three of the paper’s seminal journalists.
The first section, is by arts correspondent JKL Berensen (Tilda Swindon), who recounts a gem of a story about a psychotic artist( Benico Del Toro) who falls in love with his beautiful prison guard (Lea Seydoux). It’s a wry, romantic tale, bursting with passion and humor. There’s a magnetic chemistry between Del Toro’s artist and Seydoux’s guard that’s an inescapable joy to watch.
The second section, details the kitsch melancholy of a student rebellion involving reporter Lucinda Krementz(Frances McDormand) and Zeffirelli( Timothée Chalamet). The anthology is rounded out with a final film, in which an acclaimed journalist (Jeffrey Wright) recounts a famous food review involving a heist. It’s a hysterical, zany and compassionate visual spectacle, and Jeffrey Wright gives a performance nothing less than stellar.
Ultimately, while there’s much charm to the sheer lunacy and inventiveness of Anderson’s film, it falls short of the focus of his strongest work. The emotional heart of these stories often gets misplaced in the rigid formality of the film’s Newspaper Structure. On the whole, The French Dispatch doesn’t entirely work, it’s hit and miss, but when it hits it surely soars. It’s a must for loyal Anderson devotees, but otherwise it’s likely to strain eyeballs, test patience, and rise the ire of viewers that don’t read pretentious tomes or wear fancy pants.
The French Dispatch is in cinemas from 22nd October 2021.