The French Dispatch ⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali
A love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional twentieth century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch Magazine”. Out in selected cinemas.
Let me just start by saying that I really think Wes Anderson is one of the most gifted directors alive today; his distinctive and unique visual style has been studied and analysed in hundreds of essays and books and has now entered the popular culture, copied in countless viral videos and commercials and even parodied in an episode of The Simpsons – that’s a sign that you’ve really made it!
The symmetrical compositions, the long sideways tracking shots, the crash-zooms, the colour palette, the different screen aspect ratios are just some of the director’s trademarks. The themes about grief, dysfunctional families, adultery, unlikely friendships, rivalry are always infused with a dry deadpan wit which makes them feel unique.
All of the above are present in this film too. In fact, this might be one of the best-looking films he’s made. You could pause the film at any frame, somehow print it and hang it in any art gallery and it would look stunning.
So, how can a film so beautiful feel so dull, distant and ultimately quite boring?
One word that comes to mind: indulgence!
Wes is so intent at making his frames look perfect that he seems to have forgotten to give us a story to latch onto. He’s so keen to make his characters quirky, weird and eccentric, he failed to make us care or even be remotely interested in any of them, beyond the odd smile here and there.
I find no pleasure in rubbishing this film, but one has to be honest. I was bored, bored bored. I found it almost impenetrable and not even the infinite array of actors kept me interested. Just to mention some of them: Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Bill Murray, Christoph Waltz, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Liev Schreiber, Jason Schwartzman and Anjelica Huston as the narrator, or at least one of them.
The pacing seems to be on one note, with this constant piano music playing under every scene, which makes it all feel even slower.
It is possibly true that for every Rushmore to The Royal Tenenbaums there’s always a The Darjeeling Limited and for every The Grand Budapest Hotel (one of the most enjoyable of the last few years) there’s a Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.
I’m very aware that there are Wes Anderson fans out there who will still think this is another “masterpiece” and I’m happy for them. So take my comments with pinch of salt.
Wes has never been too interested in storytelling or in engaging with his audience on an emotional level, but with this film he just lost me completely.
The fact that it all looks so good makes the disappointment for The French Dispatch even greater.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.
The French Dispatch is out in selected cinemas (but you can also stream it online).
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