“The French Dispatch” is a costly trifle with an incredible number of first-rate stars. Wes Anderson’s film is so masterful that it becomes tiresome.
The French Dispatch Cast
The Cannes Film Festival 2021 premiered Wes Anderson’s new film, “The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun”. The American director delights fans with his masterly performance and the stunning number of stars – Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Timothee Chalamet, Frances McDormand, Lea Seydoux, Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Christoph Waltz and Elisabeth Moss star in the film. Mozenra critic Jan Hazkevich tells us what came out of it.
A town in the USA, Kansas, was called Liberty – that is, freedom. And the town in France, where a small media tycoon from Liberty suddenly decided to publish a weekly supplement to his newspaper, was called Ennui – that’s boredom. But this joke will only be understood by those who know French.
To understand Wes Anderson’s new film, too, requires a mastery of the language – the language in which all of the iconic American director’s films, regardless of the location, are shot. And ideally, passionate love of his obsessive-compulsive design. He has long been based in Europe and has deservedly found fame as a cosmopolitan: in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” he sang England, in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” he sang Austria-Hungary, in “Isle of Dogs” he sang Japan, and now he’s made his way legitimately to his favourite of countries, France. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
The French Dispatch Trailer
The fictional Ennui wasn’t filmed anywhere, but in Angoulême, the capital of French-language comics (or rather, BD, Bande Dessinee), which had a direct effect on the stylistics of “The French Dispatch”. For example, one of its chapters is unexpectedly animated, in the spirit of the Soviet “Robbery by…”. This helps to briefly describe Anderson’s method: he films living (usually famous) people as if they were two-dimensional painted figurines, placing them in perfectly constructed, often symmetrical interiors filled with an infinite number of details and visual nuances. And also in equally perfect exteriors, more akin to theatrical backdrops.
Cult of Wes Anderson
Arguably, the cult of Wes Anderson, whose world is both cosily arranged and disturbingly artificial, has little to do with his plots or even the consistent cast of characters played by the stars (for the sake of his melancholy comedies, any Oscar-winning actor would happily settle for “eat served”). The deceptive yet comforting sense of harmony in his films is as invigorating to the neurotic viewer as the interior of a luxury hotel is to the weary traveller. In recent years, having abandoned the infantilism that had irritated many, Anderson has added a touch of bitterness to his confectionary universe which has only benefited him. So “The French Dispatch”, a costly trifle of screengrabbed and sloppy reporter’s adaptations of the eponymous paper, has the magic ingredient: a nostalgia for a vanished tradition of old journalism that is both meticulous and posed, amorous and superficial. Exactly like Wes Anderson’s films.
In presenting their publications to the judgment of a stern editor (Bill Murray, who else), and at the same time the film’s audience, the journalists of “The French Dispatch” are embedded in their narrative in different ways. One (Owen Wilson) leads a bicycle tour of Ennui, another (Jeffrey Wright) takes part in a police operation himself, a third (Tilda Swinton) gives a talk in front of a huge audience, a fourth (Frances McDormand) jumps into bed with the young hero of her own story. Firstly, who would resist Timothy Chalamet? Secondly, “The French Dispatch” is set in space and time where neither old nor new ethics exist, and standards of behaviour are dictated by the way characters in genre films from at least half a century ago behaved.
The French Dispatch Streaming: How to watch online
The new film from Wes Anderson will be available only in theaters from Friday, October 22nd 2021. It will not be streaming from this date.
So, if you’re eager to see it upon initial release, then the big screen is the place to be. It’s worth checking for showtimes at your nearby multiplex or arthouse closer to the time.
Fortunately, UK audiences will be welcomed into cinemas on the very same day as US moviegoers to check it out.
No news regarding a subsequent streaming release has been announced.
The release encountered delays in response to the COVID-19 pandemic but the film finally received its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in June, earning widespread acclaim
Cannes Film Festival 2021 Review
So there’s a naked prison guard (Lea Seydoux) posing as an abstractionist murderer (Benicio del Toro with a funny glued-on beard) and a con artist (Adrien Brody) selling the fruit of his labour to foolish collectors. Or a chef working for the police (Stephen Park) tries to poison thugs with gourmet French cuisine, while a chess student (Chalamet proper) who was just ready to go to the barricades instead decides to lose his virginity to a pretty fellow wrestler (Lina Kudry).
Each of the articles has a real prototype, and “The French Dispatch” itself is a nostalgic parody of The New Yorker, but who cares? Anderson’s film is not a rebus, with countless elements hiding some unobvious meaning, but a divertissement so virtuosic it becomes tiresome. Even the habitually melodic music of Alexandre Desplat (that’s who the chief French agent in this film is) begins to infuriate with its excessive cuteness, somewhere between Chopin waltzes and Satie piano miniatures, with a slant to Michael Nyman’s minimalist conveyor. And the number of iconic acting appearances is so excessive that it inadvertently suggests a wild thought: maybe Anderson is just a very polite man, incapable of saying no, and pesky stars keep endlessly knocking on his door? In addition to the aforementioned, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Angelica Huston, Christoph Waltz, Elisabeth Moss and others have been seen on screen.
Of course, it doesn’t follow that Wes Anderson made a bad film. There are simply no criteria for such an assessment. In his kingdom of the permanent full moon, the director does as he pleases, the laws of screenwriting or common sense have long since been out of his hands. It is more important to be true to oneself and to the audience, whose affection is becoming more and more massive and passionate with the years. But if you’re not a permanent resident but a tourist with a transit visa, be careful: instead of a “liberty”, you might end up with an “ennui”.