With the announcement this week that Writer/Director Wes Anderson‘s next cinema release will be the imaginative and wonderful-looking Asteroid City, this particular Blu-ray is a finely-timed exclusive release from HMV for his tenth film, The French Dispatch.
Anderson’s previous outing is another inventive addition to his filmography and while, for me, the film doesn’t quite have that perfect balance as much of his work does, even though it follows a distinct pattern of vignette stories within a wider world, there’s an awful lot to admire from The French Dispatch and it’s never a bad thing to get a little constructive criticism. Furthermore, and almost just as importantly, there’s enjoyable stand-out sections to admire.
Setting up inside the final issue of an American magazine published in a fictional 20th-century French city Ennui-sur-Blasé, The French Dispatch initially focuses around the death of Arthur Howitzer, Jr., (Bill Murray), and how his staff come together to arrange and write his obituary. These memories then form four individual stories, which tell tales from the times gone by.
From Owen Wilson‘s Herbsaint Sazerac, who offers cycling tour of various important places in city and introduces us to the Le Sans Blague café (and I love the style of that spot – and enjoyed visiting it in 2021 at 180 The Strand!), through ‘The Concrete Masterpiece‘, which tells us the story of insane painter Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio del Toro), his time in prison plus the relationship he takes up with his guard Simone (Léa Seydoux) who becomes his consequential muse.
There’s the wonderful ‘Revisions to a Manifest’, which is a tale of love and life during an important student revolt. This story really pulls you in, and that’s a lot to do with the main duo, led by Frances McDormand’s Lucinda Krementz, a journalist profiling student revolutionaries, and her fascination with Timothée Chalamet‘s Zeffirelli, a student revolutionary himself – and he gives a stellar performance.
Then there’s the final story ‘The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner‘, in which Jeffrey Wright‘s smooth-talking Roebuck Wright tells a story, to Liev Schreiber‘s talk show host, of his private dinner with The Commissaire (Mathieu Amalric). In this anecdote, things take a turn for the serious when the high-ranking official’s son Gigi (Winsen Ait Hellal), is kidnapped and put up for ransom by Edward Norton’s The Chauffeur.
This section is another fun escape full of adventure, and the latter two tales get you into the sway of The French Dispatch and – of course – the enjoyable cameos on the ride are always worth it. Anderson’s film is notably inspired by the directors own love for The New Yorker, along with many key characters being a version of the journalists/editors/writers of the American weekly that’s been in print for nearly 100 years now.
Like much of Wes’s work, The French Dispatch deserves a re-watch due to the deep levels of detail and scripting because, in truth, there’s always something new to learn and appreciate. While it wasn’t an immediate favourite of mine, Top 5 style, when you’re delving into intricate set designs (something that I got a closer look at here), and a classic Anderson approach to how scenes are created and filmed, you can’t deny another unique venture into the mind of the filmmaker, which offers a celebration of characters – rather than an a single story outcome – with a host of great performances to embrace.
The French Dispatch is available exclusively on Blu-ray from HMV in the UK now: hmv.com/thefrenchdispatch(hmv)
I am an unabashed fan of Wes Anderson but I thought TFD was self-indulgent—glorious but uneven.