“A love letter to journalists, set in the headquarters of a US magazine in a twentieth century French city.” This is the definition that Wes Anderson gave of The French Dispatch, his latest film in cinemas from 11 November, a concentrate of color, style exercises and tableaux vivants that will not disappoint fans of the Andersonian vein but which, unlike his other equally layered works, will struggle to reach those who have little familiarity with a certain cinema and a certain evolution of language. It took us three years to see the film, which was initially supposed to be presented at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival but then, due to Covid, remain hot for more than twelve months. In fact, it is since 2018 that Anderson has been working on this monumental work that has gathered a stellar cast even for very short cameos: from Benicio Del Toro to Léa Seydoux, from Timothée Chalamet to Frances McDormand, from Adrien Brody to Bill Murray, from Owen Wilson to Edward Norton, from Christoph Waltz to Tilda Swinton. But what did Anderson really try to tell in his tenth feature film? Has he gone too far, as the gossips say, or has he found the courage to put together a complex work that we will study for years to come?
The ninth episode of We divan, the Vantiy Fair podcast dedicated to cinema and TV releases, talks about this: a film that has divided critics, but which had the merit of offering the most heartfelt and sincere tribute to one of the most famous literary magazines in the world : the New Yorker. The French Dispatch, however, it is not the version of Wes Anderson’s “Spotlight Case”, but a romantic and fictionalized portrait of a now distant literary world, dominated by a particularly bright and recognizable visual aesthetic and a playful score marked by the scratch of the pencils and the key ticking on the typewriter. But what is it about The French Dispatch? The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun is, first of all, the full name of a weekly based in France, more precisely in the small fictitious commune of Ennui-sur-Blasé, administered by its publisher: Arthur Howitzer Jr. We are in the years ranging from 1925, year of the magazine’s foundation, to 1975, the year in which Howitzer died taking the French Dispatch.
The film takes the form of the latest issue of the magazine, featuring three in-depth articles represented in the form of medimetrics lasting about half an hour. In a web of references, rhetorical twirls and half-hidden meanings, Anderson takes us by the hand in a herbarium of his finest concerns and enthusiasms, giving life to an anthological film set up like a magazine which, in order, tells of a psychopathic artist brilliantly played by Benicio Del Toro; a student revolt with a student leader, Zeffirelli, played by Timothée Chalamet, at the forefront of getting young men into women’s dormitories; and of the greatest chef of the French police kitchen. All stories made with dazzling scenography and ingenious artifice, starting with frequent transitions between the use of black and white and color, the use of animation and an almost theatrical setting. The doubt of some, however, is that in this round the director has gone a little further, creating, more than a film with something to say, a manifesto of his way of understanding art and cinema, feeding that paradox between the refinement of his methods and the violence of his subjects. But will it really be like this?
Have a good listening!
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