The French Dispatch

9 November 2021 / by Nalyn Tindall
A screen capture of The French Dispatch
The French Dispatch
Style takes precedent visually and narratively in The French Dispatch, creating a film unlike any other.

Wes Anderson’s most recent film details a collection of stories all brought to life through the means of the final issue of “The French Dispatch” magazine. The issue details a travel guide, three feature articles and an obituary following the editor’s death. Through the eyes of the journalists we are taken back in time and the stories are retold in a fanciful and delightful manner. 

The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun features a star studded and award winning cast including 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, Liev Schreiber, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, and Anjelica Huston. Arguably the cast carries this production, and without the talent to back the stories, the film would be entirely different. The misfit characters are distinct and bring their respective stories to life. 

The ability to add charm and comedy, whilst sticking to Anderson’s deadpan style coupled with weighty events is a unique skill in which new actors like Chalamet have picked up on. 

The love for the written word is evident in this film and clearly acts as a strong inspiration throughout. Both the characters and vignettes are well written and possess clear narratives however length becomes an issue as each piece could act as its own feature length film. The stories are not fully discovered by the time we must move on, with some dragging while others are rushed. 

Alexandre Desplat has yet again graced us with another masterful soundtrack which perfectly accentuates the film. Both stylistic and narrative elements are highlighted throughout the soundtrack similarly to orchestration from previous films like The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Whilst one of Anderson’s most visually inventive films to date, it is also one of the least emotionally involving. The anthology format does not allow for deep emotional development within characters leading to a lack of heart, which previous films are known for. This heart should be prevalent as the stories detail strong emotional conflicts, yet investment is lacking due to lack of insight into each character’s lives. The strongest vignette “The Concrete Masterpiece” suffers this the least, as characters’ pasts and emotional struggles are shown in the most depth. 

Style took precedent within this film, not only visually but narratively, however this dedication to style creates a film unlike any other. The stylistic risks pay off handsomely, and it is nice seeing experimentation outside of Anderson’s regular aesthetic and repertoire. The use of black and white, along with 2D animation and non-linear narratives are all interesting techniques utilized within the film. 

This anthology provides quickly waning moments of delight endowed with comedic charm. Each vignette is memorable and stands on its own. The lack of an overarching theme is excused by the ability to articulate each story effectively and uniquely. Attempting to achieve the feel of a magazine accounts for the disconnection between stories, however Murray’s character possesses an untapped potential which could have created a more interconnected narrative and added humanity to the film.