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Bloody Well Write

The French Dispatch

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Who’s ready for Wes Anderson’s most Wes Anderson-y movie to date?

It feels like we say that every time he releases a new film, but The French Dispatch is absolutely the inimitable auteur at his most Andersonesque.

The French Dispatch is a magazine — a weekly addition to a Kansas newspaper covering the ins and outs of Ennui, France, the town where the periodical is based. The film itself is an anthology, four shorts (four of the stories published in the final edition) held together not by the one character each has in common, editor Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray), but by Anderson’s giddy admiration for France and The New Yorker.

Boasting everything you’ve come to expect from a Wes Anderson film — meticulous set design, vibrant color, symmetrical composition, elegance and artifice in equal measure, and a massive cast brimming with his own stock ensemble — the film is not one you might mistake for a Scorsese or a Spielberg.

Expect Anderson regulars Tilda Swinton, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Deydoux, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Frances McDormand and newcomers Benicio Del Toro, Timothee Chalamet and Jeffrey Wright. And those are the big roles (although truth be told, no one is on screen all that long).

Blink and you might miss Saoirse Ronin, Willem Dafoe, Henry Winkler, Elisabeth Moss, Ed Norton, Christoph Waltz, Liev Schreiber and Jason Schwartzman.

In the segment filed under the “Taste and Smells” section, Dispatch writer Roebuck Wright (Wright) turns in a sprawling profile on master chef Nescaffier (Steve Park) that – to Howitzer’s chagrin – contains merely one quote from Nescaffier himself. As with the other pieces of the anthology, the many tangents of the piece are explained through Anjelica Huston’s narration, which can’t replace a truly emotional through line and holds the film back from resonating beyond its immaculate construction.

Anderson’s framing of symmetry and motion has never been more tightly controlled, and the film becomes a parade of wonderfully assembled visuals paired with intellectual wordplay and an appropriately spare score from Alexander Desplat.

As a tribute to a lost era of journalism and the indelible writers that drove it, Anderson delivers a fascinating and meticulous exercise boasting impeccable craftsmanship and scattershot moments of wry humor. But the layer of humanity that elevates the writer/director’s most complete films (Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel) never makes it from page to screen, and The French Dispatch ultimately earns more respect than feeling.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0_hwGWen-I

You Had Me at Wes Anderson

The Grand Budapest Hotel

by Hope Madden

Let’s be honest, film critics love Wes Anderson. How can we help ourselves? An auteur if ever there was one, he owns a style unlike any other, marries whimsy with melancholy, gathers impeccable casts, draws beautifully unexpected performances – basically, he invites us into an imagination so wonderful and unusual that we are left breathless and giddy. We are not made of stone.

So, yes, to quote a recent (and brilliant) SNL sketch, with The Grand Budapest Hotel, you had me at Wes Anderson.

To be fair, with Anderson’s previous and most masterful effort, Moonrise Kingdom, he set a pretty high bar for himself. And while GBH doesn’t offer quite the heart of that picture, there’s a real darkness to this brightly colored outing that gives it a haunting quality quite unlike any of his previous films.

It’s a story told in flashback by one time lobby boy Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) of the last great hotel concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Feinnes), and a conspiracy, an art theft, a jailbreak, excellent manners, and finely crafted pastries.

The filmmaker’s inimitable framing and visual panache is unmatched, but he’s taken it to new highs with this effort. A frothy combination of artifice and reality, GBH amounts to a wickedly clever dark comedy despite its cheery palette. Anderson’s eccentric artistry belies a mournful theme.

Feinnes is magnificent in the central role, and the cast Anderson puts in orbit around him are equally wonderful. Adrien Brody, conjuring Snidley Whiplash, makes for an exceptional nemesis, while Anderson regular Willem Dafoe cuts an impressive figure as his thug sidekick.

The only filmmaker who can out-cameo a Muppet movie includes brief but memorable, brilliantly deadpan scenes with all the old gang: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel. But the real scene stealer is Europe itself.

Set between the two great wars, the film is a smoky ode to bygone glamour, a precisely drawn if slightly faded love letter to an image of the past.

Of course it is.

Says Zero of his mentor Gustav, “His world had vanished long before he ever entered it, but he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace.” He could obviously have been speaking of the director as well.

 

Verdict-4-5-Stars