“The French Dispatch” is Wes Anderson at His Most Extreme

Collin Tobin

Chief Copy Editor

 

“The French Dispatch” is the latest project from Wes Anderson and another major release delayed by the pandemic. The film depicts three major stories in the final edition of an internationally distributed newspaper publication in Ennui-sur-Blasé, France, after the death of its editor. Among the ensemble cast are veterans of the director’s filmography like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton as well as first-time collaborators Benicio Del Toro, Timothée Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright and several others.

If you’re familiar with Wes Anderson and his body of work at all, you’ll know that he has probably the most distinct visual style of any filmmaker out there. His nearly symmetrical framing of every scene, pastel color palette, ensemble casts, eccentric characters, and offbeat dialogue make his work instantly recognizable; “The French Dispatch” is certainly no different. This trademark style is turned up to eleven and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down at any point during the hour-and-fifty-minute runtime. There’s just so much going on in every frame that I’m sure I missed a lot the first time. The production design team has a way of making every set feel lived-in and giving them so much personality that they feel like their own characters. The aforementioned members of the ensemble are given their comedic moments through cleverly constructed interactions with their surroundings and the ever-present dry humor of Anderson’s scripts.

For the eighth time, Anderson paired with cinematographer Robert Yeoman to create one of their best-looking collaborations yet. Switching between soft pastel pinks, yellows and blues in the present day and black and white for past events, the pair have made their most visually interesting work to date. For the most part, the film is shot in the 4:3 aspect ratio, which is more box-shaped, making nearly every shot look like a postcard you want to have framed on your wall. Another longtime collaborator, composer Alexandre Desplat, composed another delightful score to match the overall pleasant atmosphere.

This film sets itself apart from Anderson’s other films through its anthology structure, which fits with its overarching ode to journalism. Anderson himself described this as his “love letter to journalists.” The sometimes overly-detailed accounts that can be found in reporting perfectly lend itself to Anderson’s intricate way of telling stories — with an overwhelming amount of precision. Without the need to interconnect these individual stories, he’s able to take off running in whatever bizarre direction he wants and that’s what I think makes this movie so special. The story of this fictitious publication doesn’t quite reach the heights and prestige of The Wooster Voice, but it’s still a pretty great movie about journalism.

I’ve seen this described as not the best Wes Anderson movie, but the most Wes Anderson movie, and I couldn’t agree more. Fans will no doubt be satisfied with “The French Dispatch,” as it’s been garnering Oscar buzz since it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2021. The more I think about it, the more I think that this is my favorite movie of 2021 so far and among “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” as one of the director’s best. I always have a great time watching his movies, but this one felt different than the others, and I hope I get to see it again soon.