Wes Anderson’s latest movie, The French Dispatch, hit theaters across the world in October. Anderson is widely regarded as one of the best filmmakers of our time through his visual style that is now synonymous with his name. Theater goers are often left puzzled by the logistical complexity of his films, wondering how in the world someone could possibly have the patience, precision, and creativity needed to make a Wes Anderson film. His 2018 animated film Isle of Dogs received nominations at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. The French Dispatch is the most ‘Wes Anderson’ movie yet.
The film itself is an anthology, broken up into three stories from American newspaper writers based in the fictional French city of Ennui who are writing articles for the final issue of “The French Dispatch.” The writers are played by a renowned cast comprising Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, and Jeffrey Wright, who tell separate stories of an imprisoned artist, a college revolutionary, and Ennui’s police chief. Anderson’s tendency to put a story within a story within a story, immersing the audience into vignette after vignette is often exhausting and yet extremely entertaining.
As for the cinematography, the Andersonian aesthetic is pushed further than ever before. While the plot is surely all over the place, the visuals are spectacular and detail the beauty of French architecture in a cartoonish and exciting way. The plot’s lack of singular narrative and looseness allows Anderson to focus more on the stunning visuals that this film brings to the table. Anderson’s signature pastel palettes, intricate set design, and symmetrical camera shots are all still here. Phew! Anderson’s use of the film makes good use of occasional black and white tones, and alternating aspect ratio to fit each scene. It even includes a comic book-style animated car chase sequence as the finale for the film, and serves as a stylistic refreshment.
The star-studded cast brings their all to this production with big names like Timothée Chalamet, Benicio Del Toro, Bill Murray, Adrian Brody, and many more well- known actors. The dialogue is quick-witted, hilarious, and often very random. You’ll find yourself picking up on snappy lines of dialogue that’ll make you chuckle for a minute just to be enthused by another one a minute later.
My biggest criticism of the film is that it is too dense. Anderson easily could have made The French Dispatch three separate movies with much slower paces, and would be able to incorporate a deeper ‘message’ to the film. As it stands, Anderson’s film doesn’t really say anything about life or society, and instead relies nearly completely on the visual element. I think Anderson pulls it off extremely well with this film, but I’d love to see a story that has more meaning.
My biggest criticism is simultaneously one of my favorite things about the film. The swift pace makes sure that you’re always paying attention and entertained, and the artistry behind the film is enough to make the film worthy of our appreciation. As I watched this film (twice), I couldn’t imagine the unfathomable amount of time and energy spent by artists, engineers, designers on achieving the “Wes Anderson” visual. The French Dispatch is a magical film that I hope most people will be able to enjoy, whether it’s from the comic masterclass or the extravagant cinematography.
[Graphic Credits Carlo Maguire]