“The French Dispatch”, Review: the freest film by Wes Anderson


“The French Dispatch” should finally allay a common concern about Wes Anderson’s films, namely that there is something edgy, static or precious about the extremes of the decorative artifice of which his comedy is made. . “The French Dispatch” is perhaps Anderson’s best film to date. It is certainly his most accomplished. And, for all its whimsical humor, it’s an action flick, a big one, though Anderson’s way of showing the action is unlike any other filmmaker. His films are often based on an apparent paradox between the refinement of his methods and the violence of his subject. In “The French Dispatch”, it is all the more central, given its literary orientation: the title is also the name of a fictitious magazine explicitly modeled on The New Yorker and some of its classic journalistic stars. Anderson sends writers off in search of stories, and what they discover turns out to be a world of turmoil, a world in which aesthetics and power are inseparable, with all the moral complications and ambivalences that this intersection leads.

Anderson’s fictitious publication runs between 1925, the year it was founded by Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray) and 1975, the year Howitzer died, and (by decree) that of the magazine as well. contrary to Le New Yorker, La Dépêche française is based in France, in the city of Ennui-sur-Blasé, where the young Howitzer decided to extend his vacation more or less forever by transforming the Sunday supplement of Liberty, Kansas Sunset– a diary belonging to his father – into a travelogue that quickly turned into a literary sensation. The film takes the form of the magazine’s latest issue, which features Howitzer’s obituary; a brief travelogue by a writer named Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson), which shows, in a miniature sketch, how the tone and substance of the publication evolved; and three long feature articles. The feature films, lasting around half an hour each, capture the broad preoccupations and varied subjects of the magazine’s writers, as well as the combination of style and substance that characterizes their literary work and Anderson’s cinema. .

“The French Dispatch” contains an overwhelming and sumptuous profusion of detail. This is the case with its decor and its costumes, its variety of forms and narrative techniques (real shooting, animation, shared screens, flashbacks and jumps forward, among many others), its playful break with the dramatic setting with reflexive gestures and ostentatious staging, its aphoristic and dazzling dialogue, and the range of its performances, which in the blink of an eye turn from the strange facetious to the painfully candid. Far from being a candy box or an inert showcase, the film bursts and leaps with a feeling of immediacy and impulsiveness; the script (which Anderson co-wrote with Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness, and Jason Schwartzman) is overflowing with the sense of joy one finds in discovery and invention. Even its static elements are set in motion – actions and dialogues directly in the camera, scenes of people seated at tables joined to a rapid and rhythmic shifted editing, living tableaux that freeze scenes of tumult into contemplative marvels – and take flight at through a fast moving camera.

Despite all its meticulous preparation, the film swings, spontaneous, out of whack, and it is precisely this sensory and intellectual overload that falsely suggests that it is static, picky, tense. At the first viewing, viewers run the risk of having their perceptual circuits short-circuited. The very effort to make sense of what’s going on – to analyze the action into its constituent parts, to put together its narratives, moods and ideas – leads to inevitable simplifications, to the reduction of the seething cinematic energy. in simple mental snapshots. In my mind, it is necessary to see “The French Dispatch” twice to see it fully even once, which I mean as a great artistic compliment. I felt the same about “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, in part because of the microcosmic detail that every frame of the film gave off, and “The French Dispatch” is by far the richest film. Anderson’s convergence of multiple narrative frames into a single action scene, his jumps in time and space to offer different perspectives, and his interlocking and brittle storytelling modes are all so daringly complex that, by comparison, they make Alain Resnais appear as Sidney Lumet.

The film’s simplest story is Sazerac’s introductory sketch of Boredom, in which the traveling journalist – telling his story in front of the camera while cycling around the city – dispels the idea of ​​a narrative. of a seductive and picturesque journey considering the pickpockets of the city, the working sex, predatory altar boys, it is poor and unsatisfied. His indiscreet and curious view of the city (involving bodies caught in the Blasé River) also comes with his own issues, whether falling into a manhole or being pulled off his bike by young disbelievers. – a pair of gags that Anderson performs with exquisite minimalism comedy and led Sazerac to fix his bike during a history conference with Howitzer.

Art critic and historian JKL Berensen (Tilda Swinton) narrates the feature debut, by Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro), an artist and psychopath who becomes world famous while incarcerated for murder in a high-rise prison. safety to Ennui. Rosenthaler owes her career to a prison guard named Simone (L̩a Seydoux), who is an unconventional muse: she poses for him and is his lover but is also his virtual boss and his real commander. After getting a feel for his great talent and feeling the spark of connection between them, she takes him and his career firmly and sternly in hand for her own long term goals. (The relationship is intensely erotic, in terms Simone strictly dictates.) Rosenthaler also owes its praise to an art dealer named Julien Cadazio (Adrien Brody), a fellow inmate, convicted of tax evasion, who recruits Rosenthaler for his gallery and then manages to bring a great collector РUpshur (Maw) Clampette (Lois Smith), of Liberty, Kansas, and her entourage (including Berensen, who once worked for her as a consultant) Рto prison for a show that becomes deadly chaotic.

Then, political correspondent Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand) reports a student uprising in Ennui, undated but clearly modeled on the events in Paris in May 1968. The student leader, Zeffirelli B. (Timothée Chalamet), is at the l avant-garde of an application for admission of young men to women’s dormitories. (something like really happened as a crucial prelude to the events of May.) Krementz, who dines with Zeffirelli’s parents, finds him in the tub writing a manifesto while the police cut off the protests with tear gas. She helps with her manifesto and they become lovers, but their relationship sparks a conflict between the merry rock music lover Zeffirelli and another student leader, Juliette (Lyna Khoudri), an intensely serious ideologue. (There is a key debate over the concept of journalistic objectivity that reveals Krementz’s fluid and participatory sense of journalism.) A standoff with the police that is resolved by a game of chess between Zeffirelli and the Commissioner turns into a police riot. Ultimately, the student cause, as Krementz reports, both “wiped out a thousand years of Republican rule in less than a fortnight” and produced millions of posters and T-shirts depicting the “Resemblance” of the rebels.

The latest feature, by Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright), is the most hyperbolically contrived of the three, and also the most poignant. Wright is a black homosexual American author who chose exile in Boredom. He became a food writer, and his report here centers on Lieutenant Nescaffier (Steve Park), the greatest detective chef, an idiosyncratic specialty that Wright analyzes in detail and plants it at the Commissioner’s table (Mathieu Amalric). . The meal is meant to be a delight but turns into a violent nightmare when, days after a horrific gang war, the commissioner’s young son, Gigi (Winsen Ait Hellal), is kidnapped and the entire department is mobilized to locate and save the boy. Wright tells his story from the stage of a TV talk show (the host is played by Liev Schreiber, with brilliant impassive reserve), where he proves his “typographic memory” by reciting his article verbatim. It is then dramatized on screen, Wright speaking into the camera as events unfold. Yet the story Wright tells – of gangster crimes, horrendously brutal police crimes, daring rescues at the cost of great personal sacrifice – is also a personal story, involving repression. and the persecutions endured by homosexuals (on the charge, as he puts it, that they “love it backwards”), and one of the struggle for exile. It becomes all the more personal when he is invited by the talk show host to explain his decision to write about the food, and when he discusses with Nescaffier (who is an Asian immigrant) the discomfort. policy of their life in exile.


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