The French Dispatch

By: Jolie Featherstone

Wes Anderson’s latest feature is a dazzling ode to the joys of the printed word and the spirit of the American wanderer.

Anderson blends his distinct eye with inspiration from Georges Méliès and Jean-Luc Godard to transport us to the French outpost of a sophisticated American magazine managed by charismatic editor, Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray).  After situating us within the comforting, close-knit network of the magazine team, the film whisks us along on the misadventures put to page by the team of rolicking writers.  A nostalgic song for a bygone time, The French Dispatch beautifully encapsulates the sensitive, wandering nature of American seekers – those seeking a new way of life, seeking sublime art, revolution, gastronomical delights, and more.

The film flickers with the glow of vibrantly saturated hues, elegant black and white photograhy, sumptuous tableaus, and cartoon animation.  Paying homage to the films of the French New Wave, The French Dispatch is organized like the well-plotted magazine.  The film is told in a series of vignettes – beginning with a charming introductory piece, followed by three long-form stories, and ending with a finale that is at once delightfully humourous and also strikingly poignant.  Each vignette studies both the writer of the piece and the subject of the story – mysterious, fascinating, beguiling characters.  The all-star cast has fun diving into this Jacques Tati-esque exploration.  However, Jeffrey Wright’s transformative performance stands out and will be remembered long after the credits roll.

With The French Dispatch, Anderson and his story co-providers Roman Coppola (A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III), Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Jason Schwartzman (a frequent presence in Anderson’s work) present us with their love letter to the present-minded contentment of sitting down with a great magazine: the joy of reading far-flung stories in font nestled next to arresting images on glossy pages.  It’s a love letter to the American wanderer – who searches for answers abroad and in the written word.


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