I have no qualms about joining the crowd of moderately pretentious film buffs who recommend Wes Anderson as one of their favorites. His famed portfolio of pastel flushed, symmetrical, and painstakingly detailed visual feasts are as thematically warm and nostalgic as they are gloomy and lonely, making him a movie maestro. His middlebrow, colorfully weird, and psychologically tormented characters are some of the most attractive, fascinating, and memorable souls in all of film history, thanks to his skill as a sculptor of sensitive personality.
“The French Dispatch,” on the other hand, exemplifies everything Anderson is known for and takes it to a new degree of plausibility. “The French Dispatch,” Anderson’s most ambitious, innovative, and Wes Anderson-y picture ever, is an artistic success.
The French Dispatch, the film’s namesake, is a fictional weekly literary supplement to the likewise fictional Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun newspaper, founded in 1925 by editor-in-chief Arthur Howitzer Jr., played by Bill Murrary. The French Dispatch is an unashamed replica of The New Yorker Magazine with all its odd grandeur, beckoning Anderson’s enthusiasm for the eccentric authors and stories that took the magazine to its sophisticated splendor in the twentieth century.
The video is made up of four pieces from the final issue of The French Dispatch, each with its own brief vignette to serve as a catalyst for the plot. “The Cycling Reporter,” “The Concrete Masterpiece,” “Revisions to a Manifesto,” and “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner” are the titles in order.
Without a doubt, each vignette drew the audience into Anderson’s precise world of fiction, was distinctive, and possessed its own unique traits. Each vignette featured its own distinct visual aesthetic and theme tune that dynamically intensified and subdued with the plot components and thematic focus, in addition to an absurd story and wacky characters.
“Revisions to a Manifesto,” for example, tackles the nonconformity that comes with adolescence and looks and feels like a French New Wave film. A journalist named Lucinda Krementz, played by Frances McDormand, is a frontline reporter covering a student protest known as the “Chessboard Revolution” in the vignette. Offbeat story beats include Krementz’s attempt to retain “journalistic neutrality,” a brief and taboo love affair, and, in true Andersonian form, a shocking and unexpected tragedy.
The sleazy and picturesque French village where each vignette takes place, the imaginary city of Ennui-sur-Blasé, France, is another shared element. The vignette is introduced by journalist Herbsaint Sazerac, played by Owen Wilson, and recounts the town’s plentiful prostitutes, predatory conmen, gang of ferocious choirboys, and famed river Blasé, where an average of 8.25 dead bodies are fished out each year.
Despite the film’s abundance of Anderson’s trademark dark wit and capricious appeal, I must point out that “The French Dispatch” is not a film for the casual viewer. Even for an enthusiastic moviegoer like me, the film’s opulent language, loquacious characters, and story points that move at the speed of sound make it tough to understand and follow along with.
Furthermore, viewing this film’s presentation is not for the faint of heart – in the greatest conceivable way. “The French Dispatch” is so astonishingly complex and poetically detailed — with so many moving components — that you could watch it a million times and yet find new aspects in Anderson’s maximalist dioramas. Stills and video clips from the film are expected to be seen for years to come.
“The French Dispatch” creates its own unique characters and recounts unforgettable stories, all worthy of wide publication, as a passionate love letter to journalistic story-telling and the journalist behind each narrative.