Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson
Runtime: 1 hr 48 mins
Rating: M18 (Nudity and Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Walt Disney Pictures
Opening Day: 9 December 2021
Synopsis: THE FRENCH DISPATCH brings to life a collection of stories from the final issue of an American magazine published in a fictional 20th - century French city.
You can regard Wes Anderson as an artist. If you are familiar with the American filmmaker’s works, you’d know how he tells stories with a distinctive visual and narrative style. His films are eccentric (this reviewer remembers how he convinced his army mates to watch The Royal Tenenbaums in 2001, and they left the theatre bewildered), and each character has a peculiar personality. Coupled with a quirky soundtrack, Anderson’s films are best enjoyed if you’re in the mood for something exquisite yet playful.
His latest work follows three different storylines as “The French Dispatch”, which is the French foreign bureau of a fictional newspaper “Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun” creates its final issue. The film starts off with the editor of The French Dispatch dying suddenly of a heart attack. He had expressed in his will that the publication is to be suspended following one final farewell issue. From here, three articles from past editions are brought to life on screen, along with an obituary. Anderson begins his film with a title card stating what to expect, and you are brought on this whimsical journey.
After a short segment who what seems like a travelogue featuring Owen Wilson as a cycling reporter, we are given the first story “The Concrete Masterpiece”, where we see a mentally disturbed artist developing a relationship with a prison officer. In the mix is an art dealer who evades taxes, and the business of art exhibitions and profit making. This is the most engaging segment of the film, thanks to heartfelt performances by the brawly Benicio del Toro and the sultry Léa Seydoux. Adrien Brody completes the picture as the businessman with a plan.
The second story “Revisions to a Manifesto” features the ever so perfect Timothée Chalamet as a student revolutionary working on a manifesto. Along comes a reporter (Frances McDormand) who believes in journalistic neutrality, and before she knows it, she has a fling with the young boy. Lyna Khoudri delivers a performance filled with bravado in this otherwise stylistic but emotionless piece.
The third segment “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner” is the most interesting of the lot, as the spotlight is shone on a chef who specialises in preparing cuisine to eaten by police officers. A series of events sees the writer (Jeffrey Wright) embroiled in a kidnapping saga. Without giving too much away, this segment showcases a refreshing approach to visualising a story on screen.
Like Anderson’s other films, this one features an impressive ensemble cast. Favourites like Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Anjelica Huston, Edward Norton and Willem Dafoe are all there, with other big names like Christoph Waltz, Mathieu Amalric, Saoirse Ronan and Elisabeth Moss joining the list. Who would say no to being cast in a Wes Anderson production?
If you’re a fan of the auteur’s works (remember that this is the same guy who made Fantastic Mr Fox different and cool), you’d be impressed with every frame of this 108 minute film. Every shot is meticulously framed, and every camera movement is executed with precision. You may say this film is overflowing with self indulgence, but we’d take it just for that breath of fresh air.
(Thank you, Wes Anderson, for gracing us with another stylistically eccentric film)
Review by John Li