Wes Anderson has a style and every film he refines it more and more, The French Dispatch is the next evolution of that, from the camera movement, the miniature work, the complex and specific staging, everything is firing on all cylinders here.
The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun tells the story of a magazine and its editor (played by Bill Murray in a great straight man performance) through three different features (and a Local Color section) of the magazine’s final issue.
The first is Owen Wilson’s piece, laying out the fictional town of Ennui, France where the magazine is based and the three other stories take place. It’s a city in change. The first real feature, The Concrete Masterpiece – by J.K.L. Berensen (Tilda Swinton) discusses the history and evolution of an incarcerated artist played by Benicio Del Toro. The second feature, Revisions to a Manifesto – by Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand) follows a group of student revolutionaries. The third, The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner – by Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) is a crime story in which in the course of reporting on the style of cooking known as police cooking, Roebuck Wright is thrown in the midst of a kidnapping plot.
Each of these stories are incredibly clever, funny, and engrossing – each could be the sole story in a fuller film and I’d be happy to watch each and every one of them in the inevitable French Dispatch Criterion Collection – 5 Films of Wes Anderson’s Ennui, France. But it’s better to leave them wanting more I suppose and so we get these stories packaged neatly in a framing device showing the inner workings of the magazine.
When it comes to acting I’m going to quote a good friend of mine, Eric Smooth “This isn’t a basketball game, it’s a slam dunk contest.” The cast, an absolute murderer’s row of talent are giving it their all whether they’re in thirty minutes or three. Pick anybody as your favorite performance and you’ll have a solid argument.
Special shout out to Timothée Chalamet who we just witnessed in DUNE. The range on this guy playing Paul Atreides moody but heroic (and perhaps messianic) then compare it with Zeffirelli, a kind of snot-nosed punk little kid who thinks too much of himself and his own ideas, but is charming in his own way. He’s going places I can’t wait to see him for decades to come.
The movie is more than just the live-action and intricate set building and framing we’ve seen. Anderson brings all his interests to bear in this one. There are miniatures, dioramas, even animation, all blended into this one movie making for a truly unique experience of hand-crafted magic.
It is all absolutely delightful, and if you’re a person who has at all enjoyed his movies in the past, fancy yourself a writer, like reading magazines such as The New Yorker, etc. you are going to enjoy this film and its humor.
The French Dispatch opens in limited release today October 22nd, and everywhere October 29th.