Home Doll house The French Dispatch – Review of the BFI London Film Festival 2021

The French Dispatch – Review of the BFI London Film Festival 2021


The French dispatch, 2021.

Directed by Wes Anderson.
With Bill Murray, Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Frances McDormand, Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, Jeffrey Wright, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton and Lyna Khoudri.


A series of stories from the pages of an eclectic journal, chronicling student protests, the art of prison and a high-stakes kidnapping attempt.


Wes Anderson is arguably the most distinctive filmmaker working today. Each of his films is unquestionably his, from the opening titles to the closing credits. Whether it’s the symmetry of its frames, the pastel colors or those whimsical scores – often by Alexandre Desplat – you are always aware that what you are looking at is something truly Andersonian. It is certainly true of The French dispatch – a nice meander through an anthology of stories, in connection with the titular journal.

Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) is the newspaper’s editor, with a “no crying” rule in his office and a fiercely protective attitude towards his writers, notably Sazerac (Owen Wilson), Berensen (Tilda Swinton), Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) and Krementz (Frances McDormand). The film takes place as a series of stories written by journalists, including a story of student protests led by the shady teenager Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet) and the story of prison artist Rosenthaler (Benicio del Toro ) being prepared for pictorial success.


Even by Anderson’s standards, it’s an incredibly foamy substance. It’s a deeply pleasurable viewing experience – absolutely stunning to watch and moving at a pace fast enough that it’s always watchable. However, there is a feeling throughout that every moment is totally disposable. The stakes are so low at every turn – even when the situations are meant to be life or death – that it’s difficult to fully invest in any of the characters. Even if you did, they’re often only onscreen for a few minutes, and the movie doesn’t look at their fate at all.

Of course, Anderson has attracted a set of actors at the top of their game, adding Chalamet and Elisabeth Moss to its growing ranks of regular contributors. It’s hard to think of many other directors in Hollywood who might ask a performer like Saoirse Ronan to play an ungrateful, underwritten cameo. None of these cast members have ever really had the chance to mark their authority on the film, and given their lack of screen time, they feel like sketches and caricatures rather than rounded humans. .


The film is the very definition of style rather than substance, but few can deliver a style as substantial as Anderson. Wide shots of dollhouses of entire buildings are present and correct, as well as ingenious touches such as the front facade of a physically displaced cafe. The travel story style of storytelling is crafted in such a way that it’s entirely possible – and probably even advisable – to just enjoy the pretty imagery and the occasional twinkle of the tongue-in-cheek comedy.

In many ways, The French dispatch is the cinematic equivalent of an elegant cake topper from one of those stores that thinks it can charge exorbitant fees just because the name on the sign outside is in curly handwriting. It’s a delight to watch and a very pleasant taste on the way down. But also, it’s over before you get your money’s worth and, in the end, it’s just empty calories. You certainly wouldn’t want to eat it every day.

Evaluating the Flickering Myth – Movie: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★

Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow it on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for opinions on movies, wrestling stuff and word games.


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