The French Dispatch (2021) - 6/10
For all their beauty, Wes Anderson films can feel a bit impenetrable at the start. The French Dispatch is no different. The dialogue is thick and fast. The ensemble cast is exciting… even Owen Wilson. France, always beautiful on film is given the Anderson treatment and looks gorgeous framed to perfection with an unnatural but arresting colour palette. Benicio Del Toro, Elizabeth Moss, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright, Christophe Waltz, Henry Winkler, Willem Dafoe, Liev Schreiber, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman… and Bill Murray. Crazy huh! It’s quite a collection and that’s what this is, a collection of stories. Compiled by Arthur Howitzer (Murray) the surly editor of a small town paper The French Dispatch. We get the murderous and bonkers Moses (Del Toro) as the imprisoned and tortured artist with his prison guard muse (Léa Seydoux). Creating work for collector Cadazio (Brody) and critic Berensen (Swinton) to swoon over. Intellectual student dissident revolutionaries like Zeffirelli (Chalamet) who’s lives are chronicled and influenced by journalist Mrs Krementz (McDormand) and soundtracked by Jarvis Cocker singing in French. Memory man Roebuck (Wright) wandering around an impossible set encountering all those other big names in a series of cameos, whilst recounting a crime caper that ties these odd world vignettes together, sort of. It’s funny, but weird, obviously. Clipped scenes, often magical. Seemingly informative, always dense. As stories in themselves I’m not sure they’re that successful, but the way they’re delivered is done with so much style, it gets away with it. If you don’t like Wes Anderson. This isn’t going to change your mind. It’s Anderson at his most Anderson. The details, the humour, the composition, colour and lack of. You’ve got to admire the cinematic world created and whether you can find your way into these characters, past the surface aesthetics or not, there’s surely plenty to marvel at and enjoy. It’s not my favourite Anderson film though. That’s still a tie between Moonrise Kingdom & The Grand Budapest Hotel.