Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Wes Anderson Publishes ‘The French Dispatch’

Cinema | November 1st, 2021

By Greg Carlson

gregcarlson1@gmail.com

The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun

First, a note to the naysayers and cynics and grumps and sourpusses and killjoys who would dismiss Wes Anderson as a suffocating ironist infatuated with his dollhouse miniatures and his own cookie cutter formulae recycling the same set of actors within his symmetrically composed frames: GET LOST, GO AWAY, SHOVE OFF. “The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun” is not for you.

But for those who have maintained punctuality and perfect attendance, those who have ever substituted a Tic Tac for prescription stomach cancer medication, those who keep dues paid-up in the Society of the Crossed Keys, you don’t need me or anybody else to tell you that the enchantments to be found in Ennui-sur-Blasé provide the exact opposite of boredom-on-apathy.

_______________________________________________________________

THE DIRECTOR’S ADHERENTS WILL SPEND HOURS PARSING THE LONG-DELAYED MOVIE’S CHAPTERS, DEBATING FAVORITES AND IDENTIFYING CROSS-POLLINATION.

_______________________________________________________________

Anderson’s longtime affection for “The New Yorker” gives “The French Dispatch” its structure, its themes, and its emotional core. Bill Murray’s Harold Ross-esque Arthur Howitzer, Jr., the scion of a newspaper publisher, presides over the magazine produced from his adopted home in France.

The conclusion of Howitzer’s spectacular half-century run as editor-in-chief results in the dramatization of the final issue of “The French Dispatch,” broken into a prologue, three stories, and an obituary. While any of the individual segments could have evolved into feature length, Anderson takes complete advantage of the creative form of the omnibus to configure a coherent and cohesive whole.

“Bottle Rocket,” of course, was a short before it was a feature. And “Hotel Chevalier” and “Castello Cavalcanti,” along with several promotional films and advertisements, point toward Anderson’s interest in experimentation beyond the cinephile’s acknowledged admiration of anthology films like De Sica’s “The Gold of Naples” and Max Ophüls’s “Le Plaisir.” The director’s adherents will spend hours parsing the long-delayed movie’s chapters, debating favorites and identifying cross-pollination. One dreams of a companion glossary similar to the reference guide contained on Criterion’s “Band of Outsiders” disc to identify all the specific literary and cinematic allusions.

Each section offers up an array of Anderson’s giddy passions, in both text and subtext. Owen Wilson, as Herbsaint Sazerac, invites us to the party via “The Cycling Reporter,” a gliding, velocipede-mounted travelogue highlighting the love and squalor of Ennui’s past and future, with special focus on the dregs, the destitute, and the failures, not to mention marauding choirboys half-drunk on the Blood of Christ.

In “The Concrete Masterpiece,” Tilda Swinton’s J. K. L. Berensen expands on Anderson’s established contemplation of incarceration -- both spiritual and material -- in a deeply satisfying tale based in part on S. N. Berhman’s 1951 profile of art dealer Joseph Duveen.

Frances McDormand portrays Lucinda Krementz in “Revisions to a Manifesto,” inspired by Mavis Gallant’s observations on the May, 1968 civil unrest in Paris. Krementz and Léa Seydoux’s prison guard Simone mark significant strides toward greater depth, richness, and significance than Anderson has, with few exceptions, previously shown to women.

In “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner” by Jeffrey Wright’s Roebuck Wright (a mashup of James Baldwin and A. J. Liebling), the author recounts with perfect typographic memory a sprawling and sumptuous kidnapping yarn while being interviewed on a talk show.

Wright, working for the first time with Anderson, fits right in alongside the veteran troupe members. A number of critics have bristled at the way in which “The French Dispatch” relegates top-flight talent, like Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, and several others, to near-cameo status, but I don’t mind seeing Anderson alumni (Bob Balaban! Larry Pine! Tony Revolori!) populate the cast the way that Hitchcock frequently plugged in Leo G. Carroll or David Lynch counted on Frances Bay. And even though she is not currently listed among the performers set to appear in Anderson’s “Asteroid City,” I will keep my fingers crossed that Elisabeth Moss will be back for more.

Like the very best of Wes Anderson, “The French Dispatch” is large and contains multitudes. The autobiographical touches, expressed by the ensemble of fictional expatriates and natives alike, are as bewitching as the director’s exuberant application of physical set pieces, period design, shifts between color and monochrome, changing aspect ratios, animation, self-reflexive stage plays, breathless cutaways, snap-zooms and on-the-fly reframings, onscreen graphics, leaps in time, living dioramas, and the dazzling marriage of images and words. The earnest and the parodic coexist as comfortably as the close proximity of humor and sorrow.

It should go without saying that “The French Dispatch” requires multiple viewings to unlock its generous and special secrets.

_________________________

"The French Dispatch" opens at the Fargo Theatre on November 5, 2021.

Recently in:

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comEveryone knows that dogs are often referred to as “man’s best friend.” It’s no mystery why. During…

By Olivia Slyteroslyter@cord.eduFalcon Gott, Sapotaweyak Cree Nation member and filmmaker/photographer, was recently named North Dakota Human Rights Film Festival Native American Programs Director, and has many projects in store…

Sons of Norway, Kringen Lodge #4-25, is a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Norwegian culture.Sentrum på 722 2nd Ave N, FargoKringen Kafe er åpen for Kaffe og Bakverk mandag-fredag 9.00 til…

By John Strandjas@hpr1.comOur Opinion: The Little Newspaper That Could, still can.Like most everyone else we know, HPR is different these days. The pandemic changed our world in ways we never imagined. Yet here we are. And as you…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.comThe Spread of Luxury and Poverty in the Middle of a PandemicThe wealth gap between the top ten percent and bottom ninety percent has reached staggering proportions. In 1970 the wealthiest families…

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com“If you had talked to me five years ago or even a year ago and told me I was gonna be a chef in Fargo I probably would have looked at you pretty funny. It's wild where food is taking me in…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comYou may recognize Owen Hanson, from seeing him play with any number of folk punk projects throughout the past few years, such as his solo project Owen Broke, Bottle Wound, or Mr. Meaner. His folk…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.comWith almost surgical precision, filmmakers Peter Middleton and James Spinney dissect the life and work of “The Real Charlie Chaplin,” a worthwhile addition to the many studies of one of the…

By Alicia Underlee Nelsonalicia@hpr1.comCreative Moorhead is injecting new life into Moorhead’s art scene and revitalizing its downtown spaces. Artistic or handy people with a connection to the city are encouraged to connect with…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comDrag shows, for me, feel like a celebration of artistry, esthetic, music, and camaraderie. With a dash of confetti thrown in.The local drag community is a close-knit family. Giving back to affiliated…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comAdam Quesnell's last show at The Cellar beneath the Front Street Taproom in Fargo was in early September of 2018. He was embarking on a seminal move from Minneapolis to LA. As always, his comedy was…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Theresa L. Goodrichsubmit@hpr1.comIt was day ten of our epic southwest road trip and we’d made it to Arizona. After camping in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and New Mexico, we were exhausted, but fortunately our night in…

by Annie Prafckesubmit@hpr1.com17 June 2021On June 19th, from 12pm to 7pm, nonprofit Faith4Hope Scholarship Fund is hosting their first ever Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. It is free and open to the…