Wes Anderson’s latest film, The French Dispatch, is a mosaic of different works inspired by his appreciation for The New Yorker, though it is mostly fictional. The French Dispatch tells three stories set in the fictional town of Ennui-sur-Blase; all are beautiful to immerse yourself into, yet as offbeat as a film by Anderson is expected to be. We are treated to gorgeous sets, the yellowish-atmosphere of 60’s avant-garde French cinema, a whimsical score by the always reliable Alexandre Desplat, with some songs and compositions by French artists to set the mood of the soundtrack, all the while welcoming you to its world, making you feel like you just stepped into France, or at the most, the chaotic side. As Owen Wilson’s bicycle-riding travel-writer Herbsaint Sazerac (based on New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell) takes us on “a sight-seeing tour” in its first of few stories set around a newspaper called The French Dispatch, headed by the no-nonsense Harold Ross-inspired editor Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) as he overlooks the details of these stories published.
The stories in The French Dispatch are told through three different perspectives of the staff members of the newspaper; the first being The Concrete Masterpiece by J.K.L. Berenson (Tilda Swinton), which involves Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro), an incarcerated artist whose abstract paintings of nude women, particularly prison guard, Simone (Lea Seydoux) catches the attention of art dealer, Julien Cadazio (Adrien Brody), who makes it his mission to put it on display, only for Rosenthaler to become a sensation. The second story, Revisions to a Manifesto by Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand), shows Krementz as she gets involved in a student protest led by Zeffirelli (Timothee Chalamet), whom she shares a sexual relationship with as he writes his manifesto. While the final story, The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner by Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) involves Wright, who, while having a private dinner with The Commissaire (Mathieu Amalric), ends up in a kidnapping plot regarding The Commissaire’s son (Winston Ait Hellal).
The structure of The French Dispatch is pure Anderson from start to finish. Everything from its dryly dark humor to its quirky characters and wild situations just screams his name. While fans of his work will notice similarities between this and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Like Grand Budapest Hotel, The French Dispatch has a change of aspect ratio that ranges from 1.37:1 to 2.39:1, though Robert D. Yeoman decides to play fast and loose with the cinematography, when compared to his collaboration with Anderson on Grand Budapest Hotel, which reflected the different time periods it was set in. The constant change matched with its mix of color and B&W adds to French Dispatch‘s offbeat nature. It is Wes Anderson at his most Wes-Anderson-iest! Though it is nowhere near of a masterpiece Grand Budapest Hotel is, fans of Anderson’s work will no doubt appreciate the work he put into this, even if its pace leaves them wanting more!