“The French Dispacth” is a Love Letter to Good Journalism

With "The French Dispatch", Wes Anderson demonstrates his love for good journalism, literature, France, and, as always, simple but powerful stories.

Movie poster 'The French Dispatch'

Perhaps we could start by saying that his style is so particular that it cannot be pigeonholed into any cinematographic genre; if we had to create one and give it a name we would have to call it “Wes Anderson”. Photo: FilmAffinity

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Leer en español: “The French Dispacth” es una carta de amor al buen periodismo

Where should we begin to describe Wes Anderson's work? Perhaps we could start by saying that his style is so particular that it cannot be pigeonholed into any cinematographic genre; if we had to create one and give it a name we would have to call it "Wes Anderson". The symmetry and color palettes of the sets, the whip pans, zoom ins and zoom outs, the objects of fine flirtation, the costumes, the constant use of notes written on the screen, all this and its recurring use throughout its artwork makes it unique.

Perhaps we could talk about his eccentric characters, somewhat absurd, somewhat depressive, somewhat problematized with the father and mother figure, and in general with the family. Children who act like adults and adults who act like children. Characters protagonists of absurd stories, but simple stories and with a satirical and nostalgic tone at the end of the day. They live them as if it were their daily lives, because it is, and they are always played by wonderful actors and actresses who usually appear. Wes Anderson is all of that, talking about one of his films requires talking about his work in general, and with "The French Dispatch", his most recent work, it is no exception.

The stories behind the story

"The French Dispatch" is the name of the film but also of its protagonist: an American magazine based in Ennui-sur-Blasé, a fictional city in 20th-century France that by its name refers to boredom, something very recurrent in Anderson's work. The story revolves around 4 chronicles that have been written throughout the life of the magazine and an account of them due to the sudden death of the editor, Arthur Howitzer Jr., who in his will established that once he died, the magazine would die with him. This is how we are presented with four chronicles written and starring very peculiar characters.

Three of the four chronicles are based on writings published in The New Yorker, the American director's favorite magazine. In fact, the editor of the fictional magazine is also based on Harold Ross, editor and founder of the New York medium. If you want to know a little more about these stories and how the American director was inspired for his film, I recommend listening to this episode of The New Yorker's Radio Hour podcast, where Wes Anderson and Jeffrey Wright were interviewed, who gives life to one of the most important characters in the film. The New Yorker has always been characterized by its accurate journalism and its impeccable chronicles.

And that is precisely why we can say that "The French Dispacth" is not only a love letter to journalism, as has been said incessantly since it became known that the film would be based, in part, on The New Yorker, but is a love letter to good journalism, one that has been lost over the years and the saturation of information that the internet means and the massification of the media, which, by the way, have had to become transmedia.

It should be mentioned that in "The French Dispatch", Anderson changed his style a bit, but not abruptly. While it remains true to its peculiar aesthetic, the fact of grouping four stories into a single one of less than two hours, makes the film advance with a speed that fans of the director are not used to. Sometimes whip pans feel too crowded, too fast and meaningless, as well as how quickly you jump between scenes. When I left the movie theater, it was difficult for me to accept it, I did like that speed, but I did not fully understand it.

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However, Alexandre Displat's soundtrack, especially the piece "Obituary", did justice to that speed. Just as it was done to the genre of the chronicle. A genre literary enough to allow itself to be absurd, internal and subjective, but also non-fiction enough to respond to journalistic needs, to the objective and the informative. And that is the most beautiful thing about this movie.

Wes Anderson's ability to write a script that fulfills that duty is chronicle: composed of an impeccable soundtrack, performances by powerful actors and actresses (can we mention the short but incredible appearance of Willem Defoe and by Saoirse Ronan?) and sets worth revisiting as many times as necessary.

It is possible that if one begins to see Anderson's work with "The French Dispatch" they will be confused, do not understand anything, feel that they have lost 1 hour and 48 minutes of their time and have even detested it. The love for Wes Anderson must be acquired little by little, because his career, precisely, shows how he has devoted himself to his own style throughout his career as a director and screenwriter of his films. With "The French Dispatch", those of us who already admire it fall even more in love and those who don't understand it, because of course it is strange, perhaps they are more jaded by its absurdity. That's the detail with Wes Anderson.

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