This week, we review Wes Anderson’s newest film The French Dispatch!
Anthony’s written review
A visual experience of an American Journal written about the fictional city of Ennui-sur-Blasé in France. A tribute to art, cinematic craft, and the ex-pat experience.
The French Dispatch is a film that I think is vastly underappreciated and already so misunderstood.
I’m going to make some bold claims off the top. I think it’s undoubtedly already Wes Andersons best film. I think it’s also the best film of 2021.
Let’s get into why.
Part 1, a rapidly written critique of a film typed on a laptop in the dead of night, single lamp light source, one beer, and a bag of chips, crumbs on keyboard, a lonely critic begins.
So, the first thing off the bat is the criticism that this film, is “too Wes Anderson” I don’t understand that as a critique. How can a filmmaker be “too” themselves? A more appropriate criticism would be you stating the elements of Anderson’s style that you don’t like. Regardless, I think what people are trying to say is that the film has too much “style” and it’s “substance” is too thin. I think all of that comes from the Anthology aspect of this film.
So, The French Dispatch is a visual representation of the final issue of the magazine. It’s essentially three pieces from that final issue brought to life. I think the fault most are saying is that each individual piece varies in quality and substance bringing the whole down, but I see the inverse, each individual piece supports the whole. It’s about what stories this journal told. Through them, as a collective, through them as writers, through them as artists, through them as people who recount the lives of others and the art they create. I think that’s the aspect of this film many are missing is by separating them they don’t amplify each other which is I think they really do.
I won’t break down each story because I want this review to be spoiler free (as all my reviews are) but each story covers a certain theme and element of a whole that I think summarizes so much. The first part for me is the cycle of desire for an artist and being wholly dependent on a muse. Also noting things about the art industry and perception of what art is and can be. The second part for me is about aging and losing sense of self, through others, mainly the youth and by vicariously living through the youth. The third and final piece to me is ultimately about being an expat in a foreign country, or being a foreigner, or feeling like a foreigner, whether it’s by nationality or even by sexuality or race. And lightly about the art of cuisine and also about the forgotten heroes in many events and situations.
These three narratives combine the entire piece into being about the creative process and the artist’s life, or specifically here, the journalist’s life. The life of people who choose to follow and document others and preserve those stories and experiences for others to see, read and hear. It’s beautiful and Anderson executes it all so flawlessly and at such a rapid pace. It’s mind numbing to think how it all fits.
Let’s move from the narrative to the score of this film. Which is another element I think so many are sleeping on. This is bar none, Andersons best score in his filmography, and it’s supplied by his longtime collaborator Alexandre Desplat. His work here is a masterclass of simplicity. The melodies and themes effortlessly mix and mingle into every single frame of this film. Whether it’s a tick and flick of a string, to the light percussion beats that add a sense of propulsion and anxiety to certain high stakes sequences. He even creates soundscapes for each of the stories that feel unique with variations of instrumentation, while still maintaining a soundscape that feels like the French Dispatch. Truly marvelous to hear. I’ve been hearing the score soundtrack on repeat for weeks now and hands down it is without a doubt the score of the year.
Now I could talk about this film for a few thousand words if I wanted too, but for the sake of time I’ll start to wrap it up with two major elements. The visuals. Oh my. God. The visual language on display here is titanic. I think because Anderson has had such a consistent tone and voice for most of his career this isn’t really being spoken about, but listen, what he does visually with this film is absurd. It’s on another level of craft. The use of color, the use of black and white, the use of contrasting and intercutting between color and black and white, the use of film and the texture, the blocking, the camera movements, the EDITING. The editing on display is blistering and punctual and god like. I have never seen such a tightly rapidly edited film in my life. the combination of both these elements, the cinematography and the editing are so sublime and so intensely beautiful and jaw dropping that those two elements alone would push this film into a caliber of films I rarely see and experience if ever. Robert Yeoman and Andrew Weisblum deserve accolades and praise like no other this year. Truly fantastic work.
And of course, the performances are exactly what’s needed, a mixture of snappy precise dialogue delivery and quirky moments of character elements. The set design and costume designs are also flawless and beautiful executions of their respective crafts, but again, I’m trying to keep this short
So, in ending
10/10 – Masterpiece
The French Dispatch is Wes Anderson firing at all cylinders. Crafting a collage of beauty and whimsical delight, and for me personally a touching and heartfelt tribute to journalist and writers. Not only hands down the score of the year by Desplat but truly staggering work from all the technical fields as well, like Cinematography, Editing, Costume, Set and Production Design.