After the two year long wait that followed Isle of Dogs and the longer, six year gap since Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson comes back with The French Dispatch, delivering exactly what his growing mainstream-hipster hybrid fanbase expected. The trailer is a procession of Wes Anderson staples: slow, witty dialogue mumbled by hot people made up to look uglier, alongside his classic blend of pastels and mustards and meticulously arranged backdrops. And despite the familiarity of it all, and the arguable lack of originality (By Anderson’s standards), it doesn’t fail to fascinate and excite us all the same.
The film follows the shenanigans of reporters working for The French Dispatch, a Paris based American newspaper ran by expats; Anderson has since stated it’s inspired by the New Yorker magazine. The narrative seems to go back and forth between the magazine’s staffin the present day (1960s), and the Dispatch’s three best stories: “The Concrete Masterpiece” which is about an art dealer looking to buy an incarcerated artist’s chef d’oeuvre, “Revisions To A Manifesto”, the story of Parisian student revolutionaries in the sixties, and a complex chef-policeman kidnapping mystery named “The Private Dining Room—of the Police Commissioner”. All three are based upon real stories run by the New Yorker themselves.
In true Wes Anderson style, this sort of contained, frame narrative mirrors the theatre-like aspect of the scenes themselves, always shown as though the action was taking place inside a box we’re peering into. You don’t need to watch the trailer to know the cinematography is excellent; the same surreal, absurdist humour that the characters breathe is plastered onto the backdrops through anachronistic tchotchkes and use of symmetry.
As for the cast, Anderson relies on his habitual troupe of comically edgy actors; Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Lea Seydoux, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, I think Jason Schwartzman’s in there too, Frances McDorman… The list carries on endlessly like a google search for “Best Indie Actors”. But there’s some newcomers too, notably Timothée Chalamet who appears naked in a bathtub, complete with an impressive moustache.
Cementing himself as a genre of his own, Anderson chooses to carry on with what can only be described as the “vibe” shown in both newer works Moonrise Kingdomand Grand Budapest Hotel, thus branching out from his previous, sharper stuff, and settling into this washed out pastel palette. His narrative style has the familiar fast paced sequence of slow paced scenes. The result is dreamy and dollhouse- historical but in a Bourgeois-bohemian blend, and very self aware (The french town is called “Ennui sur Blasé”). It seems quite smug with the fact that it’s basically Wes Anderson trying to out–Wes-Anderson himself.
So is the trailer a sequence of everything we’d expect from a Wes Anderson movie? Yes, and does it therefore look as excellent as we’d expect it to? Also yes.
Illustration: Hazel Laing