The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch

At once the most and least of Wes Anderson’s recent films. Most because his stylistic and organizational acumen is in overdrive—stories within stories, sets within sets. Least because it all seems even more flat and diorama-ish than usual. Certain of the characters and scenarios were memorable, particularly Del Toro and Adrian Brody. Jeffrey Wright’s riff about dining and restaurants being a comforting port-in-the-storm was truly moving, even tearful (I know, NO CRYING). But that’s pretty much it.

McDormand MUGS. And her story is bad: not just because of its condescending, parent culture politics (it’s probably wrong to assume that a director who dresses like a ventriloquist dummy is anything other than a bourgeois caricature, politically). Because even its basic beats feel so conventional. The student radicals just wanted to look pretty and fuck? Yawn. This is what everyone thought at the time. I know Anderson is solely interested in that impression, and not the underlying action. But I think it still behooves a filmmaker operating 60 years after the fact to muster something about May ‘68 that might qualify as an insight.

And he is capable of such insight: he does it in the modern art sequence, which frames the emergence of that movement in ways that don’t give it the obvious short shrift. Teenage leftists aren’t so lucky I guess. As Anderson ages, I worry he’s becoming one of those people who pins pretty butterflies inside of glass boxes; doomed to be admired more than pondered. It’s too bad, because his films used to muster real affect more capably.

Some nice wallpapers, though. And I enjoyed the tableau vivant bits especially.

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