The French dispatch: freewheeling Wes Anderson [critique]

The filmmaker and his company return in black and white and pastel colors, between pastiche and hairpiece, alternating first choice entertainment and warning for the last time.

Everyone has their Wes anderson to him. There are early fans: the nickel-plated feet charm of Bottle Rocket, the neurasthenia of the campus of Rushmore, the funny family pain of Tennenbaums. There are adepts of goldsmithing Darjeeling, the model making of aquatic life, lacquered miniatures of Grand Budapest Hotel. And then the big children, those who marvel at its lively vein (Mr Fox, Isle of Dogs), or even (it’s rarer, because much less good) the homage to Mark Twain Moonrise kingdom. We can like the indie Wes Anderson or the Wes Anderson studio, the Wes Anderson with puppets or with actors, often full of actors, sometimes too many actors. The sad Wes Anderson, the gay Wes Anderson, the Wes Anderson pop music or bossa nova, the almost serious Wes co-written by Noah Baumbach or the comic-depressive former roommate of Owen Wilson, the posh dandy or the obsessive geek. Are they all the same? Are they interchangeable? Can we love them equally, in the same way, in one piece? Can we love them Everytime, without them tiring us from time to time or do you have to be in Wes mood to enjoy an Anderson movie? Should we appreciate it for its American originality or as an offshoot of the good chic, globalized good taste of the 21st century? In short, is it better to enter the store or is it better to stay outside to admire the window, like those of Galeries Lafayette during the Christmas holidays?

Yes The French Dispatch invites us to make this type of assessment at this point, it is because it conceives itself as several films in one, an experience of “coat rack” (one of the American terms to designate the structure in sketches) based on two reverse movements: a journey through French cinema from the 1930s to the 1970s (mainly through three black and white short films) and a tribute to New Yorker, one of the largest institutions of the US press, the journalistic equivalent of a three-star restaurant, so refined, comfortable and delicate, that even the typeface of the menu is supposed to smell of truffles. The illumination of The French Dispatch is both its genius and its limit. Sketches are what sketches always are: uneven, often long (because we don’t know when they will end), a little invertebrate (because not undergoing the constraint of being really films, they are only films. parts). The actors pass there without staying there, they are beautiful, tall, famous, we can see that they are having fun like crazy, whether under beards à la Michel Simon (Benicio), vuitonized berets (Owen), mustaches existentialist (Timothy) or naked like beautiful Noiseuses (Léa). Around them, Wes has fun like a little fool to renoirize, godardize, truffalize, jacquestatize, nail down, like the cine-Francophile he learned to be, living ten years in Paris.

Proof that the different Wes Andersons follow each other, come together, but do not all stem from the same inspiration (his) or the same aspiration (ours), each spectator will have his favorite part: the sketch on the painter saved from the waters, the one on the sixty-eight barricades or the final culinary thriller, with its Japanese chef and police officers in caps. Others will still prefer the prologue-walk through a reconstructed postcard town of Angoulême, serving as the new Épinal. The visit begins with a sleepy courtyard which gradually comes to life, in the early morning, when the community wakes up, and we can find there the most revealing mark of the Anderson system: under the perfect control, the phenomenal artistic direction, the extraordinary ordering of each microsecond, he proposes to make life spring up. But a life that looks above all like a children’s mobile or an electric train circuit …

The best of the film, in the end, is undoubtedly its tender description of the small editorial staff of the magazine from Kansas expatriated in France, the columnist whose face you never see, leaning over her typewriter, the journalist who never finishes his papers, the one who can recite them all by heart and the visionary and pithy old editor, whose death marks the death of a certain idea of ​​the press, neurotic, romantic, aesthetic and obsessive. Qualifiers that describe perfectly Wes Anderson, all Wes Anderson, the one who touches us, the one who amazes us and the one who sometimes ends – sometimes within the same film – by boring us.

Of Wes Anderson. With Benicio Del Toro, Léa Seydoux, Bill Murray. Duration: 1h43. Released on October 27, 2021

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