The French Dispatch – London Film Festival 2021 – Film Review
The French Dispatch is an entertaining reward for Wes Anderson fans as it captures his quirky and magnetic visual style in an ode to New Yorker magazine. It is whimsical in style and in structure and therefore showcases Anderson’s signature style. The film essentially operates as a series of vignettes, some more captivating than others, as it spotlights the writing and editing process involved in publishing a magazine following the demise of its founder. It may be the case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts as the film’s chapters reflect the categories found within the magazine allowing the audience a pick and mix of stylish features.
The French Dispatch has a number of well known actors, such as Frances McDormand, Léa Seydoux, Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton, which in itself is intriguing to discover as the various segments unfold. The film demonstrates the manner in which the authors of each topic aim to achieve that balance between allowing their voice to permeate through topics that may only loosely fit the agreed narrative for a pitch. As such, an insightful perspective is shown of team dynamics within this publication, The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun where a sign above the editor’s door literally dictates that there should be ‘no crying’ occurring. That sense of team spirit is quickly established as the collective sit within the editor’s office and a drôle sense of humour pervades the film.
Unfortunately, the film favours a visually stunning palette in lieu of character development. However, the cinematography itself is mesmerising with a blend of styles, characteristic of Anderson, adopted per vignette. Stories are told in black and white depicting an artist and his muse, with Rodin sculpture inspirations apparent and frescoes to admire, with a corporate twist, there are French revolutions planned and a plethora of other disparate stories. The French Dispatch is truly a work of art with its immersion into the artistic world.
Anderson’s signature warm colour palette, mainly pink tinged, is adopted within scenes and will be a familiar sight to many. Whilst there are some standout performances with Jeffrey Wright’s scene stealing presence notably being amongst them, it is noticeable that there are few characters from ethnic minority backgrounds present which remains a criticism of Anderson’s work.
The artistic flair within each section is certainly a marvel to watch and to immerse oneself within plus the setting of Ennui in France ensures that there is a very French feel to the film which is delightful to watch as a Francophile. The Gallic charm certainly oozes throughout The French Dispatch creating a soothing ambience. It is truly a visual treat for the eyes and the senses despite a lack of emotional connection with most of the characters which does not feel obvious, in a film this beautifully filmed.
Each vignette is a character in its own right and Anderson appeals to the disjointed nature by which publications are often held together by a sole figurehead and eclectic pieces of writing. The interweaving of artistic styles within the individual stories is a talking point due to the range of styles on display from animated comic books to factual imagery. One gets the impression that Anderson is truly wishing to express his creative flair within the film which is amplified by the enthusiastic score. It is a delight to explore such impressive technical skills combined with quick edits alongside mesmerising images to continuously pique the audience’s interest. The French Dispatch contains just the right amount of that French je ne sais quoi in the absence of coherent storytelling in this entertaining tale.