In the 25 years since his first feature film, “Bottle Rocket” (1996), Wes Anderson’s intricate style has cemented his reputation as an author like no other. Uniquely characterized by an intoxicating emphasis on symmetry, color, and elegance, this style is ubiquitous, even inspiring countless rejections from fans looking to channel its aesthetic.
His tenth film, “The French Dispatch”, is the biggest exaggeration of his cinematic style to date: Anderson’s latest film delves into the quaint mid-century European visuals of the eponymous “Greater Budapest Hotel “and amplifies it tenfold. And, as one would expect from Anderson, his highly anticipated film (which was screened in competition at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival), is a hilarious, endearing, and absolutely breathtaking work of art.
“The French Dispatch” follows the creation of the latest issue of a New York-inspired magazine in the aptly named town of Ennui-sur-blasé, and like the titular fictional magazine, it is told in several vignettes – “an obituary, a brief travel guide and three feature articles. Anderson focuses on four American journalists in France and their intrepid, albeit naive editor, Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray), who allows his writers to pursue the topics and the expenses they like as long as they “try to make believe [they] wrote it that way on purpose.
Each section of the film contains a whole series of Andersoniasms to unwrap. (A single view of the film barely seems enough to capture everything the director is trying to do)
As with all of Anderson’s films, the performances are exactly as he stylizes them: emotionless and subtle. But it also means star-studded actors often blend into one Andersonian mold. The journalist Lucinda Krementz (Francis McDormand) and the revolutionary student Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet) are exceptions to the rule. The result is magnetic. Yet most of the characters fit into Anderson’s vision so skillfully that it almost becomes more performance art than performance.
The same can be said of the rest of the film as well. Anderson delves so boldly into his aesthetic (as we’d expect) that “The French Dispatch” sometimes feels more like a work of art to prove Anderson’s mastery of the craft than a story caring to move its audience. For example, the film goes from black and white to color, almost on a whim. And while both color schemes are undoubtedly beautiful, the changes can seem confusing and haphazard. Likewise, the plot unfolds so quickly – each scene is so filled with action, imagery, and metaphors – that Anderson risks leaving his audience in the dust.
Still, it would be wrong to fault Anderson for relying so heavily on his iconic style, just as it would be wrong to say that this deep dive into Andersoniasms is what sets “The French Dispatch” apart from its other films. Where “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Moonrise Kingdom” invited viewers into the various peculiarities of unfamiliar places and relationships, “The French Dispatch” rushes its audience through them like a whirlwind – much like the “Quick Travel Guide “by Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson) from Ennui-sur-Blasé which opens the film. Indeed, this rapid pace of transporting viewers to a new place or event can make the film itself feel like a magazine, which is a big part of the film’s success as a tribute to the film. journalism and journalists.
It is in this reflection of journalism that “The French Dispatch” – and the genius of Anderson – really shines. While the film pays homage to its subjects (the authors of magazines like The New Yorker), it does not put them on a pedestal. Far from it: the wacky journalists of The French Dispatch are endlessly rebuffed. Gags about journalistic objectivity and the inability of screenwriters to follow a clear storyline abound and add color to the motley editorial team.
For fans of Anderson, this film offers a fun, fast-paced, and ruthless take on the author’s world. Just because it might not be the director’s best work doesn’t mean it’s still not worth watching. Rather the opposite. He does everything fans expect from Anderson and takes those elements to the extreme. In short, it has all the characteristics of a typical Anderson classic: elegance, eccentricity, undeniable spirit and irrefutable charm.
This is the world of Wes Anderson, and “The French Dispatch” makes a masterful case to live there.
– Editor Sofia Andrade can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @bySofiaAndrade.