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‘The French Dispatch’ Is the Most Wes Anderson-y Movie Yet

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13.07.2021

Wes Anderson is a tricky customer, perhaps one of the most divisive directors in modern times. Whether you appreciate his latest film, The French Dispatch, as with almost all his films, seems to depend entirely on whether you love his profoundly individual cinematics or revile them. Certainly, this new film will do nothing to convert Anderson atheists, as it shows the director operating on a level of Wes Anderson squared.

The French Dispatch takes place in the offices of a magazine loosely based on The New Yorker, set in a fictional French town called Ennui-sur-Blasé, which is clearly modeled on Paris. From the start, a linguistic fussiness and archness of tone are evident, in a dominant voice-over that accumulates detail and eccentric turns of phrase, and exquisitely crafted film sets that are self-consciously artificial. In several scenes, decors are dismantled, or give way to different sets, creating a kind of hall of mirrors which never reflects back at us a recognizable reality. All the characters here are types of some sort—the young revolutionary, the lonely spinster-writer, the moustache-twirling chef—who are depicted against stiff, rigidly symmetrical backdrops. This gives the film the feel of a doll’s house populated with puppets, acting as the director sees fit.

Being an omnipotent artist is no bad thing in itself: Muriel Spark, for instance, always said that her characters had no life........

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