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The French Dispatch| Review

Has there been an independent filmmaker in the modern landscape of cinema more respected than that of Wes Anderson? It seems that every film he’s put out in recent memory has succeeded in the indie scene both through its quality and revenue. He’s developed such a respectable reputation that every film he’s made has accumulated mass respect unlike any other independent filmmaker currently working. What more is that his even popular films have received nearly blockbuster level amounts of revenue, elevating him to becoming an industry titan well into the 21st century. This has led him to profound opportunities – such as working with highly regarded actors and elaborate and expensive sets --- that other independent filmmakers don’t have the pleasure of accessing. He’s landed himself into a fairly profound standpoint in modern cinema --- he’s granted the privilege of economic freedom, yet his films still resemble “heavy” independent sensibilities. So, when it was announced that Anderson’s newest project would include a cast full of A-list actors and an unusual budget, in regards to his past films, there was mass anticipation present.


The film is structed unlike any other film directed/written by Anderson. It follows 3 stories that were regarded as the best in a (fictional) French publication known as “The French Dispatch.” This was performed as a way to commemorate the legacy of the chief editor and founder, who had recently passed away. The first story follows an acclaimed artist’s time spent in prison as he continues to produce work while also falling in love with one of the wardens. Anderson plays with color throughout this section, often switching from black and white to full-frame color. Where it faulters is in its approach to linear progression. It rapidly jumps around in a way that comes off both as confusing and off-kilter to the overall pacing. The second story, arguably the best, centers around a group of teenagers as they form a political revolt against the local police. It is here that Anderson shows his knack for storytelling. The linear structure of this segment highlights the unique and talented way in which Anderson progresses the plot. It’s unconventional, but at the same time stable and comprehensible. Undeniably it’s heavily influenced by the French New Wave, as references are thrown around and the overall feel of it matches that era’s sensibilities. The last story arguably carries the film down in the home stretch.


What ultimately brings the third act down is its unhinged flow. Anderson attempts to incorporate artistic renders of scenes in this act, but it ultimately just proves to be an excuse for the director to avoid budget constraints as many of the sets, within the scenes, include expensive features like planes and hot air balloons. And while these cartoons are done well and with intricate detail, it’s hard not to look past their obvious displacement. In addition to this, the pacing of the third act also faulters. The story winds in many ways, inherently coming across as disjointed and messy. In a film that plays with many aspect of structure, it’s ultimately disappointing that the final act is essentially lacking one of the overall achievements of the film. For a film to showcase amazing use and control of structure and plotting, it’s disappointing that the final moments are completely rid of it.


But what’s most important about the film, at least in contemporary times, is how it resembles the changing focus in modern cinema. As years passed have shown, challenging and independent filmmaking has seen an incredibly noticeable dip in popularity and production. However, films released in 2021, like Licorice Pizza, Pig, and The French Dispatch, inherently show that there is a steady rise in thirst for this sort of cinema. Box office numbers as well as critical acclaim are approaching a peak at this time, and ultimately highlight the somewhat better look for the filmmaking business as we approach another decade. Despite blockbuster films like Spiderman: No Way Home that tower over any moderate releases coinciding with it, there still seems to be a fairly large audience of people looking to appreciate independent and acclaimed films. As long as this attitude towards cinema continues to rise in future years, then the likelihood of another 60s-esque era for Hollywood is neatly inevitable.



Time Stamp: December 2021

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