The French Dispatch is an indie film directed by Wes Anderson. It was released in cinemas in October. After seeing it, I now have to decide whether it was a scoop worth watching. Or if it’s a story so horrendous that the WJEC agreed to ban it from practicing journalism ever again!
How is The French Dispatch indie?
I know what you are thinking. ‘This is directed by Wes Anderson and stars Jeffrey Wright, Timothée Chàlamet, Elisabeth Moss and Bill Murray. There all Hollywood stars how is this indie’ and to that, I say the lines between what is indie and what is mainstream are thin. Many indie films star prominent actors such as Patricia Arquette in boyhood or Jennifer Lawrence in silverlings playbook. Ultimately, it depends on whether the studio involved is a big name and if the film has a big budget.
The great thing about indie films is that they can take huge risks because they aren’t following some annoying studio producer intent on creating a profit.
And you can tell that off the bat with the French Dispatch. It’s a stylish film with a bright yet pastel palette and action that is fast, quirky like it has a spring in its step and narration that tells you the history of the French Dispatch.
Which considering it’s a Wes Anderson film, should have been expected.
The Cycling Reporter
After we get the history of the french Dispatch and the journalists and editor, we move into the cycling reporter who gives you the history of Ennui. At first, the audience isn’t sure where the film is going. We’ve gone through the history of the french Dispatch. To some guy on a bike who moves through the city comparing the past and present. With some dynamic camera work. You would be quick to assume there is no narrative thread; however, there is. Admittedly it is hard to figure out.
It’s a story of four, maybe five, parts about the final issue of The French Dispatch, the stories that will be covered and added in, and how the editor agreed to put them in. Maybe you were expecting some prominent feature about them saving the paper, but that is not this film. And that subversion I am grateful to see. Because we then move to the next story or page in the movie.
The Concrete Masterpiece
We move on to the art feature called The Concrete Masterpiece, which is the story of the artist Moses Rosenthal and his muse Simone. He was in prison, how he became an artist, and how he tricked his art dealer bosses and got released. Here, the palette moves from color to black and white at times (much like it does in comparing past and present in the first.) I assumed there was some symbolism in this between what happens in the present and past. However, this might be a decision over art for art’s sake rather than a symbol.
This part of the movie isn’t my favorite, I admit, I found it a bit slow in places, especially with the narration provided by Tilda Swinton. But I would be lying if I didn’t say I enjoyed it, there was a lot of humor and wit, especially with the art dealers, and the slow style adds to the story (which I’ll elaborate on later.)
Revisions To A Manifesto
The following story is ‘Revisions To A Manifesto’, a part of the poems and politics section of The French Dispatch. Lucinda Krement, played by Frances McDormand, writes about a student protest called the chessboard revolution.
This is my favorite story out of the entire movie. It has heart, wit, excellent character development of characters such as Zefferetti. Who is an activist? But he has no idea what he is doing and is so caught up hasn’t found the time to fall in love with Juliette. Who is Zefferetti’s girlfriend, who argues for the sake of argument? They both haven’t grown up but fall in love and wonder where the future will take them. It is a beautiful coming of age moment that gets the aimless rebellion of youth right. One of my favorite shots is in the story, with Zafferetti and Juliette riding a bicycle together under neon lights.
The Private Dining Room of The Police Commissioner
We are then taken to the story of ‘The Private Dining Room of The Police Commissioners. Roebuck Wright, played by Jeffery Wright, recounts when he went to dinner with the police Commissaire and how his son Gigi got kidnapped. And how they rescued him on a TV interview. One of the moments that stands out is when the Principal Showgirls eye’s go from black and white to color as she looks in a keyhole.
I liked the animated section, which brought some great drama and exaggeration to the chase scene.
Narration in The French Dispatch
Throughout all of these stories, there is a narration in the style of the article. Someone will probably complain about exposition. However, Anderson perfectly makes the cinematography and Mise-en-scene work to make it more than that. It links in with the paper, shows us the unique style of each of these journalists, and helps create a visual and audio experience that feels like the words are jumping off the page. The narration for each is different yet lyrical. It is a treat with imagery and similies I wish I could form, and whilst yes, some of it is slow, but it adds to the effect, and the film wouldn’t work without it.
Music of The French Dispatch
The French Dispatch feels timeless with the music and the setting, feeling like the fifties and having this modern touch. You can’t tell the timeline, but it makes it feel fluid and effortless. The music feels bright and adds to the timeless feeling.
Moving on to the music, it’s bright and feels authentically french. It is a whimsical delight.
I also appreciate the editor character who is kind to his writers, although if anyone is a journalist will tell you he is too nice. But one of the most heartwarming things about this movie is when they all contribute to the newspaper's final issue. It’s a moment that brings these people together, and you can’t help but fall in love with it!
Ultimately the French Dispatch has something for everyone a fun, entertaining story for the typical moviegoer. For the artsy ones, a fun palette with inventive shots. It’s a fun, whimsical ride that is a beautiful ode to writers everywhere that I can’t help but love and appreciate what it is trying to say, and I love it.
I award The French Dispatch a glorious four stars.
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