The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch

(Please take care posting this publicly on other sites. Thanks. -K)

A wide range of opinions on a movie like this, an artist like this, is healthy to me. I don't want us all to agree; I think good-faith wrestling gets us somewhere. So what basically anyone thinks about this movie, or Wes, even when dismissive, feels within the bounds of enlivening discourse to me, because why would we all agree on art like this? That wouldn’t make sense. 

That said.

((sound of Black Mamba slithering))

Now listen up, [management,] cuz this part's about you.

Yeah look if you're one of the least imaginative, least intelligent, truly most goofball-ass, BooBoo the Fool-ass editors or managers working in media of any kind, be it magazines or the arts writ large or whatever, who constantly suck in Promising Young Talent with the lure of creative freedom while rigorously, structurally denying them that freedom (and equitable pay, and benefits, and true editorial care), while sucking their brains dry on some Starship Troopers tip, sucking their time dry, rattling along through a pandemic with the same expectations of productivity while completely not acknowledging the toll it has taken on your workers; if you're a manager who's a cynical click-wench; if you force people to conform to a house style that's historically and persistently proven to be incompatible with any kind of idiosyncrasy or individuality or class/race/etc. diversity of perspective; if you routinely exploit your workers by treating them like a brain trust while thumbing your nose at what those brains and imaginations are capable of and eager to produce while also being adamantly, blissfully ignorant of what those people need to thrive, nay, to survive (e.g., fair pay, health insurance, trust in the editorial infrastructure...) ...

... if that's you, don't say shit about this movie. No one's talking to you about this movie. Don't even pivot to a scarecrow critique of its depiction of May '68 because if not for your writers you wouldn't know what that is and you likely didn't greenlight their piece on it, or only did because you saw a parasitic opportunity to push someone into a piece on Race &c, in the same way that you only ever thought to tap your AAPI freelancer contacts the last time Wes made a movie, purely for headlines on Racism, then subsequently forgot about those writers until Parasite became “a phenomenon” late in the year... even as it had already proven a box office hit overseas and an “Oscar contender” by the time you thought it was worth covering. And definitely don't say shit about race in the first place if a year ago you were hyping Robin DiAngelo and checking your budget to see if your company could afford to hire to her as a consultant (despite "not having the budget" to pay writers, specifically freelancers, what they're worth).

Even if I hated this movie — I quite like it — but even if I hated it, the fact that so many of the bad managers I've worked with have acted above it, hated it, played willfully obtuse etc., confirms my suspicion that this is their Black Panther and they feel seen, only in the bad way, as the inverse of Bill Murray; they're neither T'Challa nor Killmonger, they don’t get cool action figures, they're the white CIA guy who can manage to be in actual control, in the big picture sense, without needing the superheroic bells and whistles, no mask, no cape. Except even that's almost a bad example because these same people probably don't even know what's weird about the CIA being in that movie and they likely shot down pitches on the subject for fear of looking bad or something. 

((snake still slithering))

Clearly this movie is a fantasy of a kind and we should be debating the politics, merits, etc. of everything therein. But key to that fantasy is understanding that this is, at its most most basic, a movie about an editor/manager who respects the minds of his employees, nudges them forward, forgives their run-ons, forgives that they short-circuited the actual assignment by writing about what they, the writer/artists, actually found of interest. If you're mgmt and not feeling dragged, please rewatch until the skidmarks on your ass are clearly visible, and even then, don't say anything about it.

Everyone else? Have at it, I support you, we don't need to agree, some of you are actually annoying, but it's all good on this end because you're not mgmt, whose opinions on this movie could not be less sincere, even if — especially if? — they liked it.

K. Austin liked these reviews