The Interactive French Dispatch Review (Text-Based Version)

As any legitimate film critic will tell you, Wes Anderson is…
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…one of the best filmmakers of an American literary tradition.
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…an eye-rolling purveyor of self-satisfied art-wank.
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His new film is perhaps his most ‘Anderson-esque’ yet. It employs a portmanteau structure, essentially divided into three narrative sections.
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I mean ‘literary’ in the sense of an intellectual air matched with a deliberate affectation of style.
But honestly? I mean Woody Allen. I think there is a clear line of descent from one artist to the other, particularly with regards to Allen’s pre-Annie Hall work. I feel the only reason we don’t talk about it more is because we’re all so awkward at bringing up Allen, because… well, y’know. In fact, combine Woody Allen with the aesthetic of cartoonist Chris Ware, and I feel you’re not a million miles from Anderson’s The French Dispatch.
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It’s an elegant construction. The film draws clear inspiration from The New Yorker, and the short story conceit nicely replicates a magazine format.
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This structure robs the film’s characters of depth, since no single one gets sufficient time.
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The film’s first segment focuses on an incarcerated artist (Benicio Del Toro).
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Del Toro is always enjoyable to watch, as is Adrien Brody, but the real standout in this segment is Léa Seydoux. Does she suffer from being seen via the male gaze?
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Honestly, the film remains charming and enjoyable in this segment. Sure it’s on the nose, but in short doses it does a wonderful job.
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Maybe, but the screenplay balances that with a lot of power and strength.
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The second segment sees a political reporter (Frances McDormand) report on a local student uprising.
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This segment wins almost single-handedly by McDormand’s performance. It is so dry, and just perfectly pitched.
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The relatively overt way it mocks the idea of student and youth uprisings is just the most tiresome, middle-aged thing.
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And Timothée Chalamet?
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I have to admit, he does fit in very well with the standard Anderson players like Murray, Dafoe, and Schwartzmann.
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I’ve seen Chalamet in quite a lot of films lately, and this is hands-down the worst work I’ve seen him do. I honestly feel a little sorry for young Timothée, who does seem ridiculously over-exposed at the moment.
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Whether one likes or loathes this part, it does seem to suck a lot of oxygen from the film.
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The final section sees a food critic (Jeffrey Wright) get sucked into a police siege.
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Really, we all need to step back and appreciate what an outstanding actor Jeffrey Wright is.
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Casting is clearly a key strength of Anderson. This last story also includes Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, and Saoirse Ronan.
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The attempt to segue a food review segment into what is essentially the world’s most ironic and structured action sequence feels exhausting. Adding in a narrative frame of Wright being interviewed by Liev Shreiber’s TV journalist doesn’t help.
And here, essentially, is “the thing”.
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Ultimately, this is a film comedy by a director with a well-defined, confident style, and if you’ve been a fan of his earlier works, you will have a ball with this one.
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In short doses Wes Anderson’s films are genuinely delightful, but it is a tone and an aesthetic that is difficult to sustain. Just as an action film must take breaks between the shoot-outs and car chases so too Anderson’s particular brand of artful comedy needs to give its audience a chance to take a breath.
In the end, I am forced to accept the paradoxical position that I love his filmmaking, but cannot stand his films.
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You know your tastes. Trust them.
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Until that changes, here we’re stuck.
But don’t let the Andersonistas get you down.
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