Words by Daisy Holbrook , Staff Writer
Wes Anderson’s latest film, The French Dispatch, follows the story of the creation of the final edition of the eponymous publication. Set in the fictional French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé (Boring-on-Apathy) during the mid-century the film incorporates a dazzling array of narratives told via an obituary for the magazine’s well-loved editor, a travel guide by the bicycle-enthusiast and journalist Sazerac and a trio of features from the publication to tell its story, resulting in an anthology of visually pleasing and well-written short films tied together by the inner workings of an eccentric magazine and the endearing, unusual characters who populate its offices. The first story ‘’The Concrete Jungle’’ tells the bittersweet tale of a murderer convicted of brutal crimes and his prison guard muse as he becomes one of the most enigmatic and prolific artists in the world after a chance encounter with a notorious art dealer. The second tale ‘’Revisions to a Manifesto’’ follows a journalist struggling to maintain journalistic neutrality as she attempts to document a student revolution whilst her questionable relationship with the young de-facto leader of the protests becomes more complex and muddled. Finally, the last story, ‘’The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner’’ sees a fantastical tale of a kidnapping, a daring magnificent rescue, and a very talented chef. Despite the wildly differing plotlines in the three features, they find common ground in the way each writer loses track of the intended subject matter of their story, instead discovering a new perspective that changes their lives in some way, as their Editor encourages them – tenderly stating ‘’just try to make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose’’.
Each story is as exciting and wonderfully ludicrous as the last, and yet, each has its own point to make, giving commentary on issues such as the complexities and criticisms of modern art, the trouble of harbouring revolutionary ideals, and the struggles of expatriates living away from their native countries. The narratives told are drenched in a sense of playful absurdity, depicting events that few viewers would have ever experienced, and yet, through warm colour palettes, childlike compositions and somewhat mundane characters, Anderson finds a way to steep it in nostalgia and relatability, drawing out the real and the human in the characters, utilising what it is that makes them mundane to reach out to the audience.
In its entirety, it is an utterly delightful candy-hued love-letter to journalism, an ode to writing and arts-and-culture publications like the New Yorker, steeped in an abundance of precision and charm and paired perfectly with an ensemble of dazzling characters and an equally dreamy soundtrack. It is complex, intricate, and full of quirk and comedy, fluttering seamlessly between black-and-white, colour, tableau vivant, live-action, animation, and various aspect ratios to tell its charming tales, The French Dispatch makes the cinematography a central narrative device of its own, one that when combined with the elaborate multitude of narrative threads, functions like a meticulously maintained machine rather than a movie, a complex contraption made up of hundreds of tiny parts that synergize together, operating with a relentless trajectory that denies the possibility of reflection. It has Anderson’s typical aesthetic, colour palette, doll-house production design, planimetric, constructed composition, fast pacing and compass point editing and, as such, is sure to polarise audiences with its typical precise and twee stylisation. It is possibly Anderson in his purest form and existing fans of his work will find much to love within this joyful celebration of a generation of writers that broadened the possibilities and understanding of what journalism could, and should, be, capturing the joy of writing, storytelling, and the utter delight of losing yourself in a story.