The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch ★½

The Wes Anderson backlash has been going on for years now, and I'm not trying to jump on it with my reaction to THE FRENCH DISPATCH. While Anderson's made several great films, his latest displays his worst instincts. And "display" is the right word - his framing places actors like elements of an art installation rather than people with believable inner lives. For a film so heavily worked over, it's astonishingly devoid of passion - the New Yorker (and James Baldwin, the French New Wave and Jacques Tati, to pick its other inspirations) is a reference point to be checked off and an aesthetic to embrace, but one never gets a sense of why Anderson was inspired by it enough to make this film. Calling the characters thin would be charitable - they're playing out ironic cliches about crazy artists and rebellious youth (presented as clueless but wacky kids with no real ideology), but without any punch behind the irony. (Michel Haznavicius' GODARD MON AMOUR is an awful film, but at least it's upfront about its opinion that Godard's a huge asshole.) Several deaths take place, and there's an extended scene of torture by the police, but none of this has any weight. And that's not because it's treated comically - the film has no real sense of humor either. Anderson finally made the film his biggest critics have perceived all of his work as.

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