Review: The French Dispatch is Wes Anderson’s latest experiment | Bega District News

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La Dépêche Française (M, 108 minutes) 4 stars. If watching The French Dispatch feels like flipping through an old-fashioned print magazine, getting hooked on a mysterious subject that a writer is passionate about, then that certainly sounds like it. It’s a film inspired by a long-standing love for the form of print journalism found in The New Yorker magazine, and it reflects the stunning look of its line-drawn covers. Welcome to Wes Anderson’s latest experience, a new contribution to an exceptional work. Has the manager of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle of Dogs, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom ever been wrong? We step off the sidewalk with Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson), a travel writer on tour in the fictional town of Ennui-sur-Blasé, where the eponymous French Dispatch is published, to update an article on street life. The streetscape looks distinctly Parisian, a composite French urban setting that reflects another long-held attachment to Anderson. The director, a Texan, noted that French cinema had invited him to France and that he had been there ever since. The French Dispatch was made in the regional French town of Angoulême, but the world of this suitcase film comes from the textured, witty and imaginative vision of Anderson and his production designer, Adam Stockhausen, and the rest of the team. Although Ennui-sur-Blase translates from French as “bored and blasé”, we are in the process. As a prologue, presentations are made to other eccentric writers, editors and graphic designers from dispatch offices. From those early scenes to the epilogue involving an unexpected funeral and awakening, the film playfully switches between color and black and white, and action from live action to animation. The familiar symmetrical framing, use of flat space, and other stylistic touches are also starting to emerge. The filmmaker is not riding on plausibility. The first story takes us to the prison asylum, where Benicio Del Toro’s anguished artist, Moses Rosenthaler, a convicted murderer, is revealed to have a knack for abstract painting. A fellow inmate, financial con Julian Cadazio (Adrien Brody), may sense an opportunity and showcase Moses’ talents everywhere, but the painter is a reluctant, moody artist suffering from an unrequited love for his muse, lover and guardian Simone (Léa Seydoux). Her spell adds a bit of spice to the light and witty comedic tone. The screenplay, a collaboration between Anderson, Hugo Guinness, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, then turns its attention to a story with politics and poetry. It is about a journalist, Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand), covering the student protests of the 1960s, who helps a student leader (Timothee Chalamet) write a manifesto. With McDormand and Chalamet face to face, briefly as a couple, Anderson is betting on an even more unlikely combination than Seydoux and Del Toro. Chalamet, actor of the day in the delayed pandemic releases, is indeed very talented. His performance as a cigarillo-smoking upstart torch named Zeffirell stands out in the very long list of branded talents, from Cécile de France, Mathieu Amalric, Saoirse Ronan, Liev Schreiber, Elisabeth Moss, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman to Edward Norton, who easily appeared in cameo roles. In the third story, the only son of the city’s police commissioner (Mathieu Amalric) is kidnapped in a story that simultaneously links the police to the underworld of Ennui-sur-Blasé with the world of haute cuisine. They might be out of touch, but each of the three main stories is packed with references to people, events, and great movies from the past. Each frame is so dense in ideas that the film could possibly stand up to multiple viewings. Dispatch editor-in-chief Arthur Howitzer Jr (noble Bill Murray) presides over everything from an imposing height. Howitzer’s stable of writers love to work for such a forgiving and flexible editor who can accommodate the inflated word count in a header fit. La Dépêche française is, among other things, a tribute to writers, to the passions and weaknesses that drive them and to the satisfaction they give to their readers. It’s a journey with stops and starts, but there’s so much to enjoy in this brilliantly detailed mash-up combining the director’s unique vision and sensibility and the contributions of so many talented collaborators.



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