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The French Dispatch Review

Although there are moments where it does feel a little bloated and overripe, Wes Anderson’s ode to French cinema and journalism, The French Dispatch, is hot off the presses and ready to be fancied; a unique, plenteous, and hilarious ritzy gazette that only he and Desplat could’ve contrived. 

We all know by now that Wes Anderson has one of the quirkiest yet stylistic touches in cinema today, to the point where a few seconds go by and you already know you are watching one of his pictures. Of course, it is an acquired taste, and I can see why people are not that attached to his works, but I certainly eat most of that stuff up. His latest film has him at his most grandiloquent and histrionically eccentric, with several references to Jean-Luc Godard’s work. While it seems to lose its rhythm at a few points, it ends up working ardently. 

THE FRENCH DISPATCH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

The film is set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city, Ennui-sur-Blasé, beginning with Arthur Howitzer Jr’s (Bill Murray) death. He was the editor of The French Dispatch, a satellite publication of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. One last magazine will be released before its closure, and it will include an introduction by Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson), three pieces by J.K.L. Berensen (Tilda Swinton), Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand), & Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright), and an obituary. 

With four different stories, all with distinctive styles to match their writers and topics, Anderson seeks to outdo his previous antics and take it up a notch, delivering a little bit of everything you could have imagined from one of his films. From aspect ratio changes to changing the color of the film depending on if we’re in the past or present, it is an optical venerate, but let us not forget about the writing. Despite being snappy and rib-tickling, the script may drive viewers away due to its outlandish portrayal of an “anthology” series of short narrative chronicles. It’s hard to pick a favorite story out of the three because they were all brilliantly told with funny dialogue and banter adjoined to it. 

(From L-R): Elisabeth Moss, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Fisher Stevens and Griffin Dunne in the film THE FRENCH DISPATCH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

However, there is a sort of melancholy within its background; as you keep laughing from the multiple quips set in the dialogue or production design, those small moments of sadness come about, leaving you a bit perplexed. It’s odd that Anderson put those instances right after continuous wisecracks, nevertheless, it fits to a T. Not every article, scripture, or essay is going full of sunshine and happiness. These segments are key for The French Dispatch to gel altogether, notably in Beresen’s “The Concrete Masterpiece” and Krementz’s “Revisions to a Manifesto.” All these writers are lonely and, in a way, dispirited without their spiel. 

(From L-R): Wally Wolodarsky, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson in the film THE FRENCH DISPATCH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

While there might be an issue with emotional connection or attachment with The French Dispatch, it still finds ways to engage the audience with multiple cinematic tricks and treats. As a person who started this year to be a writer and critic, I found inspiration in these fictional character pieces. It visualizes the beauty and admiration behind the words that these auteurs have written on their respective topics. One could dream about writing such a piece that you can hold with high regard and place on your mantle. I am no Beresen, Krementz, or Roebuck Wright, but I am still working through the composition slopes and crafting my own voice. Anderson’s latest isn’t perfect, yet it shows us what the magic of curiosity and journalism can do with an overload of sensory visual incantations.


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By Hector Gonzalez

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