It might be a journalist’s story, but Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” is one of the most re-watchable films of the year.
Featuring a cavalcade of artists, it tries to be a video extra account at the Liberty, Kansas, Evening Sun.
The post is a lot like The New Yorker, but it’s under the control of Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray), an eccentric who doesn’t mind stories getting zero traction.
To demonstrate this, Anderson details several stories (and an obituary) that could have been found in the online edition of the publication.
In these very detailed tales, we meet goofy characters, like the prisoner who creates expensive art (and uses a naked guard as a model), a poet on a bicycle, a chief police commissioner, and a young revolutionary. That people like Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton are the storytellers only makes it more appealing.
But if you’re not an Anderson lover, this can be a difficult task, especially since there are so many internal references that few have access to. Jokes about journalism, however, are prime.
People also read …
When Jeffrey Wright introduces himself as Roebuck Wright, a scholarly columnist, he claims to have a “typographic” memory, then has to demonstrate what he means.
Timothée Chalamet is also the beneficiary of this writing (“I feel embarrassed by my new muscles,” he says while bathing). It is the young revolutionary who “associates” with McDormand, one of the correspondents of Dispatch, trying to make sense of the situation. Both look at the world well enough, but neither is as effective as Swinton who plays a speaker telling the story of the artist (Benicio Del Toro) and his guard (Lea Seydoux). Dressed in a 60s op-art kaftan, she makes crazy statements that encourage a second listen just to enjoy it.
A lot of “Dispatch” is like this: you want to go back and relive what you thought you heard. Naturally, this plays out on one of those dollhouse sets that Anderson has used in several movies. As the characters move from room to room, there is constant activity (and a game of ‘looking for the star’) that makes this endlessly engaging.
While you might find it hard to say what the movie was about, you probably can’t stop talking about its undertones. Like Mel Brooks’ films, this one is very specific to its director. It attracts a star-studded crowd (you won’t even guess who is in some of those passing moments) and an attitude that distinctly sets it in a class of its own.
While Anderson’s films are often production design wonders, this one deserves a nod for his writing. Its storyline is like Bo Burnham’s coronavirus special – filled with minutiae that makes you both smile and think.
Add to that the cast, the film’s unique look and lofty style and “The French Dispatch” is a missive worth savoring.