The French Dispatch
I am in a complete minority. Critics are raving about Wes Anderson’s latest film, The French Dispatch, but I found it boring (to the point of nodding off even without having had a drink) and utterly self-indulgent.
Lyna Khoudri, Francis McDormand and Timothée Chalamet
Framed as a tribute to The New Yorker and the good old days when journalists had expense accounts and freedom to write what they liked without caring if they cause offence or not (those were the days, my friend …), the movie is made up of a series of scenes commissioned as a tribute to the recently-dead super editor, Arthur Howitzer Jnr, played by a suitably cardigan-clad Bill Murray (modelled on New Yorker editor of yesteryear, Harold Ross.
See who else you spot!
In a nod to Anderson’s love of France (he lives there), the Dispatch has relocated to the improbably named town of Ennui-sur-Blasé (I did actually laugh at that one) and the ‘Acts’ respectively take place in a prison (cue for Tilda Swinton – great performance, Benicio del Toro and Léa Seydoux) in a tale about the pain of producing great art; then off to the barricades of a student revolt, enter Timothée Chalamet and Frances McDormand who make an unlikely couple, the revolutionary hero with the serious journalist; to a keystone cops kidnap caper, with a leading character named Nescaffier (I laughed at that too) and then Jeffrey Wright, impersonating James Baldwin as the gay Black food journalist relating the tale. Plots too complicated to endeavour to explain.
Benicio del Toro and Léa Seydoux
There are too many superstars to mention by name – let’s see, Owen Wilson, Christoph Waltz, Adrien Brody, Elisabeth Moss and Saoirse Ronan all appear fleetingly…I could go on!
The inimitable Tilda Swinton
I found the disjointedness annoying and tried hard to find the deeper reverence and meaning attributed to Andersons’ direction; however I did like the cinematography by Robert Yeoman, Anderson’s normal choice, and design in customary pastel shades – when not in black and white. For me, it was a reincarnation of Ennui-sur-Blasé.