Wes Anderson is a director with a film vision aesthetically and thematically linked as his trade mark. It mixes finesse with peculiarity, immediately setting him apart from his peers. His instantly recognizable cinematic style continues with his latest opus “The French Dispatch”, a comedy drama now showing in theatres. Anderson’s screenplay, co-written with Jason Schwartzman,moves betweenlighthearted whimsy and clever sarcasm.
The setting is France (where he resides), in the imaginary French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé (a tongue in cheek reference reading as Boredom-on-Indifference). The film tips a chapeau to The New Yorker magazine, noted for a listing of writers considered legendary, celebrated literary standards, a tight knit cultural atmosphere, original cartoons, and specific layout attracting the average reader to its savoir faire content.
Anderson follows a creative route around the long narrative format, an anthology piece opting for three short films linking one feature story written for the concluding edition of the magazine posing as the overseas satellite outpost of an American newspaper.
Anderson, absorbing French culture and inspired by the 1950s French New Wave cinema breakout, stands apart from other directors, not that he’s a better talent, but by the simple fact his contributions to the cinema world have personal creative input. Overheard are comments that he just wanted to fit in as much fun stuff as he could. There have been complaints the emotional resonance of some of Anderson’s past work is absent, but they’re being connected to zealous fans who prefer the maestro follow the path that led to his elevated status.
In a digital age, the printed word, as news, has been disrupted. Anderson’s movie, a signal to the fading reality of old school journalism and diminishing appreciation of the arts, shouts out an appreciated salutation to the fourth estate, celebrating those that developed and nurtured the form that became formidable in the 20th-century. As technology shapes a new world, leaving behind what once was, the director intersperses symmetry, motion of cumulative visuals and wordplay into an affable resonating anecdotal visual reading.
Anderson’s film flows with a company of name actors attached to an ensemble of great characters: Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Tilda Swinton have collaborated with Anderson on previous projects. They join Benicio del Toro, Jeffrey Wright, Timothee Chalamet, Frances McDormand, Lea Sedoux and Steven Park who’ve had limited appearances in the director’s productions. Collectively they add heft to a slice of life reality translated to the screen.
Writing is prime for a movie about journalism, and here the script blends comic drama, calamity, and levity reminiscent of Anderson’s 2014 showpiece, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
He’s a film craftsman focused on captivating characters in challenging situations. The drama is amplified, but so too, the entertaining factor.