For his many dedicated followers, a new Wes Anderson film is a major event.
In The French Dispatch, the exuberant writer-director has included all his familiar idiosyncracies, and more. It is quirky, eccentric, droll, a sophisticated fantasy set in an intricate Wes Anderson world, based in Angouleme,a town in south-west France.
It is a stylised tribute to the heyday of quality magazines like The New Yorker, and to old-fashioned print journalism.
The film is structured like a magazine, with four interlinked stories, like four feature articles written by different reporters.
Anderson is noted for his extraordinary attention to detail, exemplified in his hugely popular The Grand Budapest Hotel.
He loves Paris, where he has made his home, and he wanted The French Dispatch be set in a postwar Paris which doesn’t exist any more.
After an extensive search he hit on Angouleme (population 42,000), where the town centre still retains its old-world charm, with winding cobblestone streets, staircases, grand mansions, a bridge, a castle and a cathedral.
The opening feature is The Cycling Reporter, with reporter Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson), seen cycling through the shady back streets of the town (christened Ennui-sur-Blase).
Next is The Concrete Masterpiece, with an inspired Tilda Swinton as art critic J.K.L. Berensen, writing about an incarcerated murderer (Benicio del Toro) whose abstract paintings have become the latest sensation, thanks to their promotion by an unscrupulous art dealer (Adrien Brody). The artist’s muse is the beautiful Lea Seydoux, seen posing in a series of improbable stances.
Revisions to a Manifesto, by Lucinda Krementz (a tough Frances McDormand) features a group of young revolutionaries led by a wild-haired Timothy Chalamet marching through the streets of Ennui armed with slogans and signs.
The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner, by food critic Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) has a famous chef cooking a meal for a police commissioner whose son is kidnapped, sparking a wild rescue caper.
Each of the four stories is presented with such meticulous detail that one viewing is not nearly enough to take it all in.
Bill Murray is Arthur Howitzer Jr, editor of The French Dispatch, whose office has a sign over the door: NO CRYING. His character is based on Harold Ross, the first editor and founder of The New Yorker, known for his talent in cultivating brilliant writers and artists.
Anderson wrote the screenplay with his frequent collaborators Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness and Jason Schwartzman.
The film is populated by many of Anderson’s favourite actors, including Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Lea Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Mathieu Amalric, Elizabeth Moss, Henry Winkler and Saoirse Ronan.
Academy Award-winning composer Alexandre Desplat again wrote the score, with his lilting piano music setting just the right tone for this light-hearted whimsical concoction.
The French Dispatch is now showing at Luna Leederville, Luna On SX, The Windsor, Luna Oudoor and Camelot Outdoor.
Watch the trailer…