Results 1 to 13 of 13

Thread: THE FRENCH DISPATCH (Wes Anderson 2021)

Hybrid View

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508

    THE FRENCH DISPATCH (Wes Anderson 2021)

    WES ANDERSON: THE FRENCH DISPATCH (2021)


    TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET IN THE FRENCH DISPATCH

    Wes Anderson's New Yorker magazine homage is a vast, star-studded twittering machine of delights - requiring further viewings

    Wes Anderson is back at the height of his powers with a film as complex and stylish as anything he has ever done, with a new warmth and depth to the comedy, and even nods to violence and sex. It's a bit of a tough one to review, because it's a collection of discrete parts. He fulfills two long-held dreams: to create a set of short stories; and to make something about The New Yorker magazine. In fact the allusions, references, and homages are many here; one can't encompass even a fraction of them. So it's an anthology film, technically "an obituary, a travel guide and three feature articles," but stylistically very Wes Anderson throughout. It's a wonderful film, one that will grow with rewatchings. If in his oeuvre it's something like his penultimate film and Stefan Zweig homage and my least favorite Wes picture, The Grand Budapest Hotel, it's quite different in structure and while maybe not as funny add colorful, while still as inventive, perhaps more so, it's also more human, warm, specific, intimate and real. It's also really fun, but pretty overwhelming too, especially the first time through.

    Anderson says he has had a connection with The New Yorker magazine since the age of twelve. I can relate. In fact my mother was an early subscriber and decorated a screen with a montage of those famous New Yorker covers when she was in high school or college. There has been no time in my life when the magazine wasn't coming to wherever I lived, if we discount the three years I was in the Middle East. I can remember A.J. Leibling, Saul Steinberg, the great Profiles, James Baldwin, S.J. Perlman, his almost worthy successor Woody Allen (whose talents were literary as well as cinematic and standup), and J.D. Salinger's stories, including the long tantalizing final Glass family one, "Seymour: An Introduction." That's not even to mention The Talk of the Town and the movie reviews, which were always essential reading but became truly meaty and exciting, half satisfaction, half provocation, with the arrival of Pauline Kael. Believe me, there has been a lifetime of riches.

    These are my memories, not Wes's. I'm not sure he cites Steinberg, and Salinger isn't included, and probably Pauline wouldn't have worked. But A.J. Leibling comes with James Baldwin in Roebuck Wright, the composite figure played by Jeffrey Wright, the center figure of the last, strangest and most complicated of the three "feature articles."

    There's another key element here: France.It seems New Yorker cofounder Harold Ross's first beginnings were with The Stars and Stripes in Paris, as I learn from the press kit-like handout that came with my movie ticket. But here the whole "French Dispatch," an expat stand-in for The New Yorker, is an odd offshoot of the Sunday magazine of the Liberty Kansas Evening Sun, published in France, in the made-up town of Ennui-sur-Blasé. (Ross's incarnation here, merged with the magazine's defining 1952-87 editor William Shawn, is Arthur Howitzer, Jr., played by Bill Murray and an important figure but one who appears relatively briefly.

    Anderson has lived in Paris for years now; the whole film was actually shot in the town of Angoulême, in the southwest. Some of France's most famous film actors are in the star-studded cast, including most visibly Léa Seydoux, who's blazing blonde on our screens now in No Time to Die, but simmers as a brunette here as the sultry, surly nude-posihg prison guard Somone. who's the muse and mastermind of insane genius painter and prisoner Moses Rosenthaler. There's also Matthieu Amalric, as the gourmet police chief. There are also Hippolyte Girardot and "Guillaume Gallienne de la Comédie-Française," as that actor is traditionally listed.

    This is truly an unsummarizable film, and I won't begin to try. I'll cite Peter Debruge, of Variety, one of a number of high-profile critics who wrote raves, who provides a clearer overview than I could. His review's title calls the movie a "Dizzyingly Intricate Homage to 20th-Century Newsmen and Women," and let's not forget that, overall, it's indeed that. It's a homage toThe New Yorker, especially its expat Francophile branch, including the aforementioned Leibling and also Lucinda Krementz, played by Frances McDormand and a homage to the writer Mavis Gallant and her series of letters to The New Yorker about the Paris student revolts of 1968. We've seen those referred to dreamily in Bertolucci's 2003 The Dreamers and hauntingly in Philippe Garrel's 2005 Regular Lovers. Here it's comical and jauntily sexy, with Krementz reporting but also sleeping with young revolutionary Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet, who dominates the screens already as the Dune princeling Paul Atreides, here frizzy-haired, with a light mustache, and puffing cigarillos). Krementz starts with editing and amending his manifesto, then takes him to bed. To say this is a nutty version of those heady times is an understatement; but everything here is nutty - and so intricately crafted it's a shame Wes Anderson's audience doesn't lend itself to merch and video game versions. (There is a screenplay book and an animated music video but the DVD/Blu-ray isn't out yet.) There is a lovely little animated film inside, by the way, locally made.

    Debruge writes that "apart from Ernst Lubitsch or Jacques Tati, it’s hard to imagine another director who has put this level of effort into crafting a comedy, where every costume, prop and casting choice has been made with such a reverential sense of absurdity." The way absurdity and reverence continually cohabit is a quality uniquely Wes.

    The Roebuck Wright segment is perhaps the one that most calls for further study. It's about a food writer, or at least that's editor Howitzer thinks Wright's "The Private Dining of the Police Commissioner" was about that. There is a lot about the commissioner's chef, the drolly named Nescaffier. But there's a lot more I don't think I followed about the town and the odd doings of the cops. And have I mentioned there is a lot of fast French in this film with subtitles in tiny New Yorker-is print appearing in odd places on the screen so you can't quite read them? That may weigh particularly in the Roebuck Wright section, which includes a lengthy TV interview (with Liev Schreiber as the Talk Show Host) that I didn't focus on well, partly because the set seemed ugly.

    The best "article" arguably is the one about art, "The Concrete Masterpiece" by J.K.L. Berenson. Anderson's art references are all over the place, ranging as far back as Duveen, the mastermind behind key early 20th-century art deals. Berenson (itself a reference to Bernard Berenson, the renaissance art writer and connoisseurship consultant) is a homage to "the legendary Rosamund Bernier." A cherished lecturer and writer for L’oeil, she is new name to me; but we're all familiar with who plays her and is shown art-lecturing with big hair, prominent teeth, and an old-fashioned New York accent: Tilda Swinton. This segment focuses on the relationship between insane, animalistic genius prisoner Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro), in the local jail for double homicide, whose guard Simone (Léa Seydoux) poses nude for him and inspires a complex, incomprehensible semiabstract portrait, "Simone, Naked, Cell Block J Hobby Room." This talent is discovered and the work promoted by a family of dubious dealers, Julian Cadazio (Adrien Brody) and his two uncles (Bob Balaban and Henry Winkler). A major issue arises when it's discovered a grand suite of paintings Rosenthaler has made are frescoes and can't be moved from the prison. (This reminded me of Jay De Feo's famous almost-doomed, almost-unmovable "concrete masterpiece," The Rose: reality can be just as complicated and weird as fiction.)

    Well, I can't say I completely understand "The Concrete Masterpiece." But it's about art and that's a field I've been involved with as long as The New Yorker. Now, I have not even discussed the first segment, "The Cycling Reporter" by Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson), which, focusing on one person, the aforementioned bike-riding scribe, seems lighter (and shorter), like an easy intro to the bigger three that follow, "The Concrete Masterpiece, "Revisions to a Manifesto," and "The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner." They're approached backwards in this review, which may be as good an attack as any. It must be pointed out that not only as Debruge says this is "a first-class pastiche" so that all the references have "been recombined into something new and original," and furthermore, rather remarkably, now only is each of the four "stories" a unity coherent unto itself, but the whole, as a portrait of "The French Dispatch" and its equally brilliant editors and writers and France of some time ago, is also unified and coherent. But it goes fast, and as I suggested, it's challenging, as well as enjoyable. But most of all, it's a love letter, and it's full of love.

    Especially after two Hans Zimmer scores, an Alexandre Desplat one was balm to the ears. Film that shifts back and forth from color to black and white is one of the devices played with, like aspect rations, figures in symmetrical pose, and buildings seen in cross-section. Perhaps most memorable - and arousing the desire to watch at home with a freeze-frame option - is the way local French sets are packed with little details, signage, and unique people, labor-intensive detail where Wes' rage for control pays off richer than the naked eye can grasp. It left me hungry for more yet sated by all that was new despite the distinctive trademark style exhibited throughout.

    The French Dispatch, 108 mins., debuted in Competition at Cannes July 12, 2021 and has been featured in many other festivals, including Zurich, New York, London, Hamburg, Busan, Chicago, Tokyo, Taipei and Sydney. US theatrical release Oct. 22. Screened for this review at Century 16, Pleasant Hill, California Oct. 26. Metacritic rating: 75%.


    AT CANNES

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-27-2021 at 03:08 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    Jessica Kiang, already an excellent film critic, outdoes herself, this time for THE PLAYLIST, in writing a piece in vintage New Yorker style as an appreciation of "Mr. Anderson's new film."
    I did not know, but learn from Jessica, that the film includes: "a complete and perfect recreation of the famously ramshackle house from Mr. Jacques Tati‘s 'Mon Oncle')". I guess I'm not surprised.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-07-2021 at 11:42 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    An interview with Wes Anderson by Susan Morrison in The New Yorker shows a lot about his personality and the way he works in the movie, I think - and why it works to do mashups and make things up.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    Some quotes from French reviews.

    Overall AlloCiné score 72% (3.6 out of 5). Reading through just the excerpts they give of reviews. There's a range, obviously: At the top they are delighted, think the movie "a total feast" that "reveals an irresistible tragicomic poetry." More than reviewer thinks as I do that this is a film that can profitably be watched multiple times to enjoy all the rich details, some hidden in the background or not immediately visible. At the lower end, some French reviewers, not captivated, find THE FRENCH DISPATCH like a jewel box or a chocolate box or a museum, but unengaging, cold, and remote.

    CAHIERS DU CINÉMA (Vincent Malosa) (the most enthusiastic of all the 30 reviews, which is very unusual and worth noting): "Never perhaps has a Wes Anderson film seemed so alien to itself and so vague in its subject matter and aims, yet never has the filmmaker seemed to achieve such a degree of finesse, nuance and integrity with his subjects, his actors (...)."

    L'HMANITé (Sophie Joubert): "One could see it multiple times without exhausting all its richness as it offers a profusion of signs, offers different levels of reading, visual and sound, mixes French and English, black and white and color."

    LE FIGARO: "The solution is to watch The French Dispatch again, because the image is so full of surprises, and not necessarily in the foreground."

    20 MINUTES (Caroline Vie): "Wes Anderson's world is as rich as it gets. To have the opportunity to leaf through it like a glossy magazine is a total feast for the eyes as well as for the mind."

    LA CROIX (Stéphane Dreyfus): "This preciosity of a gifted cinephile filmmaker has sometimes played tricks on him when formal meticulousness stifled emotion. This is not the case here, where the homage to the great press and to France, the country of arts, weapons and (culinary) laws, reveals an irresistible tragicomic poetry."

    LIBÉRATION (OlivierLamm): "The filmmaker seems to lose himself in the labyrinth of his manic obsessions with this nostalgic sketch film where, as a demigod and taxidermist, he transforms the liveliness of his chronicle into a chic slide show."

    I used the great German automated translation system DeepL for these English versions.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-27-2021 at 11:49 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    1,625
    Doesn't open here until next weekend. I feel that most Wes Andersen film's are worth watching repeatedly; especially Budaapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom. I've seen both films three or four times and every time I watch them, I get something new out it. Looking forward to next weekend.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    Worth waiting for - and rewatching - on the big screen.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Ottawa Canada
    Posts
    5,610
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Knipp View Post
    This is truly an unsummarizable film, and I won't begin to try.
    Wes' rage for control pays off richer than the naked eye can grasp. It left me hungry for more yet sated by all that was new despite the distinctive trademark style exhibited throughout.

    I sensed that this was an unsummarizable piece of cine from the trailer.
    I've loved pretty much all of his films; I really liked Budapest Hotel. Sorry to hear it's your least favorite.
    I'm happy he hired The Fonz...
    I look forward to every Wes Anderson film because he cares so much. Kubrick-level of scrupulous detail!
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    I know many love Budapest Hotel. You are not alone. I may like some of the other Wes films more than you do. The Life Aquatic. The Darjeeling Limited. And I love Fantastic Mr. Fox. Isle of Dogs on the other hand I gather many weren't excited about. Neither was I.
    I was referring to two different things there. Unsummarizable is one thing, the other different thing is the complexity of visual content of certain shots.
    The Fonz plays a very, very minor role.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-08-2021 at 09:51 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    1,625
    This is an homage to journalists. Note, I didn't say writers, I said journalists, as was evidenced by his dedication at the end to such luminaries as E.B. White and James Thurber among many others (I loved the hilarious newspaper editors who pointed out errors in writing). When I studied journalism at Ohio State, I quickly realized the difference between writing, say fiction, and writing "the story" about a witnessed event. That Anderson should break up the film into sections of the newspaper was a brilliant stroke of genius; and I believe we can (all of us here... all, what three or four of us left?) agree that Wes Anderson is a genius. I believe I spotted more "art house" currently working actors in this film than in any other film I've ever seen

    I don't know if people realize how he staged several scenes. He used a lot of miniatures, from the opening scene of the building, to the airship, to the prison, to the kidnappers building; all were done in miniature. Most, if not all, of the tableaus were accomplished simply by the actors holding still and objects being suspended in the air. They were not, NOT, accomplished the same way the Wachowski's used the multi-camera technique of taking multiple shots of a scene and then rotating it in three dimensions. Anderson set up the scene and then moved the camera past so that the "still" shot told a story in the same way a photograph of an important moment would. Unfortunately, he must have been running out of money because in some of the takes you can see actors not quite able to hold perfectly still. We will forgive him for that minor error.

    Of the five or six stories, I think I liked the Jeffery Wright story the best; though the Tilda Swinton/Benicio Del Toro story takes a close second. Lea Seydoux has had a busy season with her Bond film and then Dispatch coming out at virtually the same time. Steve Park is barely recognizable as the chef, Nescafier (a take off on Nescafe?) who practically steals the show from stars Edward Norton (villain chauffeur) and Mathieu Almaric as the commissioner. Did anyone except Timothy Chalamet have more than five minutes of screen time? And then out of the blue, there's Saoirse Ronan as the junkie floozy who sings through the door. I kept smiling all the way through at the number of cameos appearances and ended up going to IMDB to identify them all.

    The only criticism I had would be the flat sort of nonplussed way he had the actors deliver all of the lines. With the exception of Chalamet, no actor had any kind of emotional delivery; well, Brody did, too. Otherwise, all of the actors underplayed each scene, which I suppose lends to his style of directing. All in all, I not only loved the film, but plan on seeing it again this week as it leaves Thursday and, according to the theater manager, had the poorest turnout of any film this "fall" season. I would say this is the finest Wes Anderson film he's ever made with Hotel Budapest taking up a close second. Being a journalist, that is my unbiased opinion.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    Glad you liked it, but how could you not? Agreed it's up there and I happen not to like Budapest Hotel all that much, for all its accomplishment, as I've said. Next time I watch it (THE FRENCH DISPATCH, that is), I will look for the use of miniatures that you describe here, which I confess I was not prepped for and did not appreciate.


    THE FIRST ISSUE OF THE NEW YORKER

    Not only a homage to journalists but specifically to journalists of The New Yorker magazine, as was fully detailed in a 16-page freebie magazine-style pamphlet ("The French Dispatch, 149e Série, No 12, 200 Old Francs"), given to me when I bought my ticket at Century 16, Pleasant Hill, CA. Thurber and White are both famous NYer people, Thurber primarily but not only a cartoonist, White a writer but famously also an editor, witness the classic writer's bible, "Strunk and White", AKA The Elements of Style. Bill Murray's character refers to the NYer's first two editors, Harold Ross mostly and to some extent William Shawn. There are also references to specific NYer pieces, and Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand) is inspired by Mavis Gallant and Lilian Ross. Wes says the film is "not based on The New Yorker bur totally inspired by it" and that he has been an admirer and reader of the magazine, which dates from 1925, since the age of twelve, which would be around 1981.


    THE FREEBIE COVER IS THE SAME AS THE POSTER, I GUESS

    The freebie magazine also lists films that inspired or influenced THE FRENCH DISPATCH. There are 32 films - I just counted them A lot are French but there are also POolanski, Wilder, De Sica and Coppola. You can see why I treasure this little pamphlet they gave me.

    I too plan to see it again but so far have not been able to due to other interesting new films to see (here anyway, in the Bay Area) in theaters, such as THE RESCUE, TITANE, PASSING, SPENCER, THE SOUVENIR: PART II and today, TICK,TOCK, BOUM! THE FRENCH DISPATCH also (largely chronicled in that magazine) refers to many other real-life personalities beside. Attendance has been sparse at these: at THE RESCUE and SPENCER I was the only person inn the audience. But I am very happy that theaters are open and I can see these excellent films on a BIG SCREEN. Most people's home "big screens" are actually about 1/200th the size, at best.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-14-2021 at 09:14 PM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    1,625
    You my friend have a treasure. Thanks for putting in the link. I can't believe Wes Anderson went through the trouble of printing an actual magazine to promote the film. I couldn't believe the detail they included, especially the cast as it is a long list of luminaries.

    I know this will sound strange as an analogy but it reminded me of a Miyazaki animation, such as Howl's Moving Castle, where you have so much going on in a single shot held for just two seconds that overwhelms the visual senses. It's impossible to take in all of the detail unless you see it again and again. Even then, you need the DVD to stop and look at a shot to realize how much detail fills the frame to appreciate it... and this makes me wonder why a filmmaker does this. If it's only on the screen for a second or two, why so much detail? The only explanation I can conjure is that the filmmaker wishes to enrich the overall experience of the film... not just gentle waves lapping against the shore, but translucent ones where we can see different stones in the water, varying depths of the water, the narrow band sand along the shore and accompanying this, narration by Jean Simmons who says, "When you get old, all you want to do is look at the scenery..." What complexity within something so simple!

    As to home cinema, I will never be locked out of a movie theater again. I'm going to invest in a laser projection system that will fill one entire wall of my living room. If I can't go to see a film the way it was intended, then by god I'm going to have a similar experience at home, if I have to. I realize they're very expensive (the one I'm considering is around $2.5K), but it's the closest thing to having a large enough image while also having similar clarity. That doesn't mean I won't support my local cinema(s). I know the managers!
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •