The French Dispatch

If you think the poster is busy, wait until you see the film.


In many respects this is the ultimate Wes Anderson movie; the film that his particular brand of artistry has been building toward for years. Anderson is a director who lays such fine detail and characterisation into his work and here the construction is meticulous to a level never seen before but unfortunately it is just too much and the focus, his and ours, is hard to grasp. The story, as much as there is one, is squashed under the weight of everything that is loaded into the film and while it has moments of delight, it is hard to follow and occasionally even tedious.

Every performance from the huge cast is strong, including some from major Hollywood stars that amount to mere seconds of screen time and no more than three lines of dialogue, but there are too many and the anthology structure denies the audience anything to hang them on. Theoretically there are three or four narrative strands but in practice there are two at best (this is a clear failing, the middle story with Frances McDormand and Timothée Chalamet does feel indulgent) and even the ones that work are broken up with mini episodes within each; the art critic telling the story or the writer retelling his adventure in a TV interview, that frustrates rather than refines.

There is no doubt that this is the work of a film maker at his peak and in many respects it is cinema as poetry but it is as though the audience has been forgotten in the mix. It isn’t a mess and it isn’t confusing, it is too precise for either of these criticisms to be fair, but it is an overload.

It’s like a pasta dish with all the ingredients; impressive but one small mouthful is enough and Anderson just keeps spooning it in.

It’s a Dali painting done in the style of Pollock; clever and masterfully done but you can’t work out the symbolism because of the heavy brushwork.

It’s like flute music played on a trombone, you wonder at how the musician is doing it and want to work out how while still screaming for them to stop.

It’s like we’ve been using the expression ‘less is more’ wrong all these years and only now do we truly know what it means.

It’s like a great orator dropping the mic only to pick it up again on the rebound and playing a hundred and eight minute one handed drum solo with it.

It’s like someone has bought every one of Anderson’s previous films on BluRay, melted them down into one solid plastic block and then smacked me in the face with it.

Want me to stop? Am I going off into my own little world? Now you know how I feel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s