Dense, complex and bursting with stylistic pizazz, the trailer for Wes Anderson‘s The French Dispatch (Searchlight, 7.24) conveys some of what the film is about. What it’s mostly about, basically, are visual compositions of fine flavor and aesthetic precision. In color and black and white, and in aspect ratios of 1.37:1 and 2.39:1 a la The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Also in the vein of Budapest, it’s about a distinctive institution that peaked in the mid 20th Century and then fell into ruin or hard times. To quote my own Budapest Hotel review, it’s “a valentine to old-world European atmosphere and ways and cultural climes that began to breath their last about…what, a half-century ago if not earlier.”
Story-wise, Dispatch is an American journalism film, oddly set in a second-tier French city of the ’50s and ’60s, except nobody seems to speak much French. It’s an homage to a New Yorker-ish publication, but with a Midwestern heart-of-America mindset. It tells three stories of headstrong American journalists reporting and writing about three big stories, one of them having to do with the French New Left uprising of May ’68. Otherwise the historical context…well, I’m working on that. Timothy Chalamet‘s Phil Spector hair is a stand-out.
Wiki boilerplate: “The film has been described as “a love letter to journalists set at an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city”, centering on three storylines. It brings to life a collection of tales published in the eponymous The French Dispatch. The film is inspired by Anderson’s love of The New Yorker, and some characters and events in the film are based on real-life equivalents from the magazine. One of the three storylines centers on the May ’68 student occupation protests, with Timothee Chalamet and Lyna Khoudri‘s characters being two of the student protesters.
Speaking in April 2019, Anderson said, “The story is not easy to explain, [It’s about an] American journalist based in France” — Bill Murray‘s Arthur Howitzer Jr., the editor of The French Dispatch, based on Harold Ross, the co-founder of The New Yorker — “who creates his magazine. It is more a portrait of this man, of this journalist who fights to write what he wants to write. It’s not a movie about freedom of the press, but when you talk about reporters you also talk about what’s going on in the real world.”
Obviously locked for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival.
“Rest assured that while The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight, 3.7) is a dryly fashioned experience, it’s also a sublime one. It’s a full-out ‘Wes Anderson film’ (archly stylized, deadpan humor, anally designed) that also delights with flourishy performances and a pizazzy, loquacious script that feels like Ernst Lubitsch back from the dead. It also feels like a valentine to old-world European atmosphere and ways and cultural climes that began to breath their last about…what, a half-century ago if not earlier? It exudes affection for its characters and a melancholy lament for an early-to-mid 20th Century realm that no longer exists. This is easily Wes’s deepest, sharpest and most layered film since Rushmore, which, believe it or not, came out 15 years ago.” — from my 2.6.14 review, filed from Berlin.