Film review: “The French Dispatch” is a grand appreciation of the mass-produced image

The most painful delayed film release of the past few years has finally been cured. At long last, Wes Anderson presents “The French Dispatch,” a wonderful movie that, compared to his other movies, is kind of difficult to explain.

“The French Dispatch” brings back the whole Wes Anderson family, including (but not limited to) Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton and Anjelica Huston. The freshman class of Anderson newcomers are the ones that really steal the show, though: Benicio del Toro, Timothée Chalamet and Jeffrey Wright deliver the finest of performances.

“The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Sun” has been described by many as Anderson continuing all of the techniques he is best known for. However, while the visual style and eccentric characters remain the same, the storytelling is different from how Anderson has told his stories previously.

Instead of one narrator describing the events throughout the movie, each story is told the way a magazine writer has observed it. This leaves room for different interpretations of the events based on the writer’s involvement in each. As a viewing experience, this allows for loads of post-film discussion as it’s unlikely each segment was experienced in the same way.

This way of storytelling allows for so much detail to be crammed into Anderson’s little tales like sardines, and it begs for a rewatch (an instant turnaround through the theater doors is tempting). Some is lost, though, when the audience is not treated to the rich character studies of Anderson’s filmography (“Rushmore,” “The Life Aquatic” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to name the deepest).

The film centers mainly on three stories. The first is about a troubled artist’s life in incarceration, the second centers around a young man’s involvement in a minor revolution and the third about a young boy’s kidnapping. Of course, no vignette is as dark as the description would make it seem.

Each story of the mass-produced image and how stories are told is fascinating from the perspective of a journalist. On a personal note, it made my journalist friends and I feel quite warm.

While it is tempting to compare this to other Wes Anderson stories, this is quite the departure from what I was expecting. There’s no doubt that this is one of the best releases of 2021.

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