The French Dispatch is Wes Anderson’s Gift to Me
A lot of cool movies came out in 2021 but my favorite was Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch. It is bonkers and by far the most Wes Andersony movie ever perpetrated upon the American public and I love it with all my being.
It’s an anthology film about a magazine (the titular French Dispatch) that bears more than a passing resemblance to the New Yorker. The movie’s plot is split among 3½ feature segments. Wes has not filmed a movie, he has filmed a magazine. This is unnecessary and pretentious and it makes my little writer heart soar.
Of course Wes is a filmmaker known for his eccentricities but he has really outdone himself this time. Armed with half of the Screen Actors Guild, he joyfully composes his scenes with every cinematic technique known to man (and probably God.) Black-and-white photography clashes with color. There are models and stop-motion animation and even a couple instances where Wes says “screw it” and pans across completely still actors, frozen in a tableau of violent corncob-hurling art discourse. It’s such a delight to watch a director mash so many silly ideas into each little celluloid rectangle. I was giggling in my theater chair like the victim of an unfortunate nitrous oxide accident.
The movie is fun too, not just quirky. As cool as it is to watch people cook radishes with blocking too structured for Michelangelo’s tastes, it wouldn’t mean much if the movie wasn’t also really, really funny. The second segment portrays a student protest led by a caricature of every annoying political kid you knew in high school. The subject of the protest? Co-ed dormitory access. The mayor tear gasses kids because they are horny.
Their leader is played by Timothée Chalamet, who is as pontificatory as any self-respecting student leader should be. Nothing is more important to him than The Movement, whose rallying cry is “Les enfants sont grognons” (The children are grumpy.) C’mon. How can you not get a kick out of that.
This is a movie that respects modern art and political activism but also knows exactly what is stupid about them. This is the correct viewpoint. Both have a lot of merit but also a lot of annoying malarky on the side spewed by frumpy critics that often obfuscate every interesting thing about them. The Adrien Brody character exists to mock this phenomenon.
If y’all are familiar with my other self-indulgent articles it will be no shock to learn that I have developed an acute case of “he’s literally me” syndrome with co-protagonist Roebuck Wright, despite him being a homosexual black man who writes for the equivilent of the New Yorker and I being a straight white dude who writes incoherent babble about the local suffering baseball team for a student publication whose name sounds like an outlet for the oedipally aroused. Jeffery Wright is so good as Roebuck that it almost makes up for him being in that awful Bond movie that also came out last year. He writes about food with the joy of a man that experiences joy very little. He’s got sentences that are better than my entire body of work. I’m not sure if he’s my greatest inspiration or reason to quit the medium altogether.
Around this point Wes’ creative pot completely bubbles over with an entire goddamned 2-D animated hot air balloon sequence in case you thought this whimsical half-black-&-white-half-color anthology film was playing by the book too much. It’s brilliant, Wes should 100% make a feature length Tintin adaptation in that style. I’ll be there opening night, probably peeing myself with excitement.
Wes is a quaint little freak in an industry that is increasing becoming more sterile and boy is it a treasure to see a movie like this in the theater instead of the 23rd installment of Good Superpower Man vs. Bad Superpower Man that will invariably make 100 million billion dollars. I’d rather watch balloon kidnappings and French sewer rats, thanks. I realize that you might not. That’s fine. Wes made this movie just for me. None of you will love this movie as much as I do. You are not pretentious enough to enjoy this masterpiece, and thank God for it.
Of course, this is just my opinion, but if you have any other opinion you are wrong.