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Wes Anderson’s long-awaited “The French Dispatch” hit the big screens on October 22. His tenth feature film successfully carried on the seven-time Oscar nominee’s legacy of leaving viewers utterly dazed about what just happened, but undeniably intrigued by the artistry and ingenuity they witnessed.

Set in the fictional French metropolis of Ennui-sur-Blasé, the anthology film takes on the structure of a weekly periodical: “The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun,” to be exact. 

Three prominent feature stories are covered in the film’s 108 minutes, including a complicated love between a prodigious artist and his asylum guard, a 1960s student protest and the kidnapping of a police officer’s son.

The film is a whirlwind of stories. Just before the viewer falls into an abyss of bemusement and denounces each tale as plotless, the next one begins. Some might call it an amplification of Anderson’s characteristically hard-to-follow storylines. I, however, found each story to be just the right amount of perplexing. Each shift to a new feature was a shock of refreshment. A palate cleanser, one might say.

Anderson’s signature style runs rampant throughout each scene of the film: symmetrical, artificial architecture, stoicism on the characters’ faces regardless of their surroundings and a comically brisk shuffle. 

“Wes understands you can’t move in a normal way,” said Léa Seydoux, who plays Simone, in an interview with “The New York Times.” “Everything has to be tch-tch-tch-tch.”

The editor of the fictional “The French Dispatch,” Arthur Howitzer Jr., is not-so-loosely based on Harold Ross, founding editor of “The New Yorker.” In fact, the charming expatriate-run periodical itself takes much inspiration from Anderson’s beloved publication, with hints of writers James Baldwin, Joseph Mitchell, or Elanor Gould emanating from “The French Dispatch’s” eclectic staff.

In an interview with “The New Yorker,” Anderson recalled the first time he laid eyes on the literary magazine. Standing out among other periodicals in the school library because of its decoratively illustrated cover, “The New Yorker” immediately caught the attention of Anderson, who was in eleventh grade at the time. Particularly drawn to the short stories, Anderson ended up purchasing six hundred dollars worth of bound issues, spanning forty years, from U.C. Berkeley. Coupled with his own subscription, Anderson now possesses almost every “New Yorker” published since the 1940s. 

Anderson’s passion for “The New Yorker” translated into a desire to make a movie inspired by the publication. In addition to reading and collecting hundreds of issues, Anderson began to read accounts of what life was like as a “New Yorker” writer. “I got caught up in the whole aura of the thing,” he said.

His dream of portraying “The New Yorker” in tandem with separate goals to produce an anthology and a French movie adroitly combined to form “The French Dispatch.”

Along with the film’s release, Anderson published “An Editor’s Burial,” a collection of articles and stories from which he drew inspiration for the movie, a majority of which came from “The New Yorker.”

A.O. Scott of “The New York Times” compares Anderson to cilantro. “He’s a taste you either enjoy or don’t.” One thing Anderson has going for him though, is that he’s unapologetic in his stylistic quirks. And as Horwitzer repeatedly tells his writers in the film, the important thing is just to “make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose.” 

Ellie Blanchard

American '24

Ellie is a sophomore at American University majoring in Foreign Language and Communication Media (FLCM) and minoring in International Studies. In her free time, she enjoys thrifting, reading, and sampling local chai lattes. Ellie is currently a Feature Writer for HCAU.
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