Once again, American director, screenwriter, and producer Wes Anderson brilliantly uses his unique, eccentric style of storytelling – combined with a distinctive, controlled visual narrative – to pay tribute to journalists in THE FRENCH DISPATCH. It is a love letter from the deceased editor Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray) of the American newspaper, the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun, bringing to life a collection of stories dedicated to each writer’s column in this final issue. He chooses a fictitious 20th-century French city as the outpost for this comedy-drama anthology. Perhaps Anderson acquired his inspiration from the 1915 Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, since it echoes the poetic structure of short, free verse poems that narrated the epitaphs of a small town in Illinois.
The film offers a wide cast of characters who come to life as each writer’s story unfolds. Travelling through the streets of France the viewers have an inside view of the political columnist Lucinda Kremetz (Frances McDormand) who pulls back a shower-curtain to reveal her young, naked revolutionist-lover Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet) in the bathtub. Or the travel writer Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson) riding his bicycle through the landscape while describing the economic troubles of France, just to name two. Stories continue with the rhythm of the printing press– which reminded me that in 2018 I attended a lecture on storyboarding and animation, and then interviewed British storyboard artist Jay Clarke, who worked with Anderson on the film ISLE OF DOGS. He described how Anderson had tight visual control over every frame of the film. It truly describes why his films have this overpowering style that people either love or hate. It is admirable, since these time-consuming techniques create a form of art well beyond normal filmmaking. With this amazing high-powered cast and crew, it is more than likely he will continue his stride in receiving awards for his work. He has already received them for THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001), MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012), THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014), FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009), and ISLE OF DOGS (2018), all films worth viewing. In my opinion, this latest one is his best.