‘The French Dispatch’ Review: Remember Magazines?

While spoilers are impossible, summarising the big episodes would be a waste of time. In the “Greetings, Friends” poem in the New Yorker, there is a huge and diverse ensemble of characters.

Mathieu Amalric! ‘ It’s Edward Norton!
Jason Schwartzman with Elisabeth Moss!
Owen Wilson, Lyna Khoudri and even Fonzie were all there!

As an example, Antics, sadness, black-and-white-to-color transitions, live-action/animated, 1930s/40s-to-70s era shifts, and more all play roles in the distinctive Anderson style of shifting from melancholy to antic.

Wilson takes us on a prose-poem tour of Ennui, complete with Anjelica Huston’s voiceover, before launching into a series of what the actual New Yorkers called “long fact” pieces. A writer at work on a novel and a captivating, enigmatic central figure, all set against a hectic backdrop of mayhem and intrigue, are the subjects of each film.

J.K.L. Berensen’s (Swinton) anguished painter, Lucinda Krementz (McDormand) rebellious student, and Roebuck Wright’s (Wright) precinct-house cook are all put together in the film (Benicio Del Toro).

Because both women authors sleep with their sources, this love poem to journalism might have used an editor with a keen eye for repetition and cliché..”

Some pieces will always stand out more than others in any given issue of any newspaper. Cooking mystery “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner” is a fast-paced, twisty tale with a satisfyingly bittersweet ending thanks to Wright. With Del Toro in a straitjacket and Léa Seydoux in and out of an asylum guard’s outfit, “The Concrete Masterpiece” by Swinton is both the silliest and most poignant to me.

My least favourite film of the bunch was “Revisions to a Manifesto,” in which McDormand portrays a student protest in the spring or summer of 1968 (and her relationship with one of its leaders, played by Timothee Chalamet). It was the thinnest and most laborious of the bunch, offering a clever parody of real-world events that flatten and trivialises them.

“Masculin Féminin,” one of my favourite Godard films, came to mind when I saw this. Some of the enjoyment you get from “The French Dispatch” may be due to your appreciation of the cultural events and artefacts it invokes… For Anderson, the affection for old modernism he communicates comes from a fan’s fervour, not from sentimentality.

That’s not to say that I’m cold-hearted. “No Crying” is a sign over Howitzer’s office door, and while some tears are shed onscreen, the stories themselves are largely dry. However, there is an undeniable elegiac quality to this vision of a bygone era. “The French Dispatch” is a remembrance of a time when a certain set of values flourished and then faded away, and “The French Dispatch” is a reminder of that time.

One woman’s good taste and economic savvy help “The Concrete Masterpiece” madman’s paintings hang on the walls of Ennui’s asylum before they are donated to Kansas’s “10 miles from the geographic centre” museum in Kansas (Lois Smith). That isn’t a prank, I promise you that. Those who appear in Ennui symbolise an ideal of down-to-earth American cosmopolitanism, which is both democratic and sophisticated, propelled by curiosity and tinged with a smattering of cynicism. The film is both a love letter and a ghost story to that spirit.

The Dispatch of the French
This film has a R rating. Cigarettes, assassination, and sex. One hour and 48 minutes. Currently showing at local cinemas.