The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson’s new palimpsestic film
Searchlight Pictures
by
ABR Arts 06 December 2021

The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson’s new palimpsestic film
Searchlight Pictures
by
ABR Arts 06 December 2021
images/ABR_Arts_2021/French Dispatch Hero Image.jpg
Timothée Chalamet as Zeffirelli and Lyna Khoudri as Juliette in The French Dispatch (photograph courtesy of Searchlight Pictures).

Devotees of Wes Anderson know what to expect, and they certainly get it in spades in The French Dispatch. Those who sensed that the American director lost his way with The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), may feel he has strayed even further from the simplicity of the works that made him famous, such as the understated Bottle Rocket (1996), the quirky and endearing Rushmore (1998), and that masterpiece of whimsy, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson’s homage to Stefan Zweig set in a European alpine resort, has much in common with his latest film; an episodic, phantasmagorical, excessive, and, at times, indulgent work.  It met with mixed reviews and was described as ‘kitschy’ and ‘curiously weightless’, epithets which might apply equally to his The French Dispatch, largely for its overlong zany scenes which appear arbitrary in relation to the action. There are certainly elements of early Anderson films in The French Dispatch: cardboard cut-out sets, restricted palette, ensemble casts, attention to detail, and homage to artfulness in all areas of life (the opening sequence, showing a waiter preparing and delivering drinks, perfectly illustrates this). Nonetheless, the film lacks something of these early films – a certain je ne sais quoi, perhaps. Maybe success has allowed Anderson to venture further into the idiosyncratic at the expense of a more universal appeal. The film is largely an exercise in visual style; an example of that postmodern artform called pastiche, style without substance; or, as postmodernists like to put it: style as substance.

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