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After waiting just under a year and a half for its release, Wes Anderson’s ‘The French Dispatch’ hit the cinemas on the 21st of October 2021 and it was definitely worth the wait! The cast included a star-studded lineup of Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Timothee Chalamet, just to name a few. 

The French Dispatch follows an anthology of stories from the newspapers’ most profound writers, all of whom come together after the liquidation of their company owned by the renowned Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray). We witness the life of a criminally tortured artist (Benicio del Toro) on his journey to becoming one of France’s most unusual painters of that century through the eyes of J.K.L Berensen, played by Tilda Swinton.

We travel back to the revolutionary era of university unions where journalist Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand) ignites a sexual affair with the leader of the unionist revolution, Zeffirelli (Timothee Chalamet). Then we see the profound Roebuck Wright (played by Jeffrey Wright) recall his near experience with death while witnessing a kidnap.

The fact that all of these “short stories” play out and get interrupted by revelations of the current time in the newspaper office allows the audience to have a more fun and light-hearted viewing of the content as it is not too hard to follow along. This then successfully makes this film a perfect pick-me-up with Anderson’s comedic narration playing throughout. Much like the different sections in a newspaper, each story flows along nicely from one to another, demanding different emotions from viewers in each one, staying true to the Anderson fashion. 

Some of my favourite aspects of this film were, of course, the visuals and cinematography. Anderson uses his directive authority to shape the world of his stories in a manner where the worlds look like pages of your favourite children’s books, with the added mature topics and humour to make it the perfect homely combination. The muted, yet colourful palette mixed with the suburbanized scenery makes watching this film so comforting to any new viewers of Anderson, making it feel like watching an old favourite one of yours.

His talents reach beyond the beautiful imagery, not forgetting the chronology and seemingly effortless manner in which the stories are told to the viewer- playing out like reading a book of short stories. One of my favourites personally was the story narrated by Herbsaint Sazerac, portrayed by Owen Wilson, which offers a visual layout of the town in which these events take place, as well as its history and how that ties in with the stories to come. 

In my opinion, The French Dispatch is one of Anderson’s best films to date. As I continued to watch, I could feel a beaming smile growing across my face as it was just such a pleasant film that can be watched both alone or with a group of friends.

The characters were all so likeable and interesting and as an audience member, you couldn’t help but want to know more about their lives beyond what unfolded before you. It simply gave you a warm, happy feeling inside when watching it for the first time, and I can assure you that it would do the same again if you were to rewatch it over and over. I would say this is a perfect Autumn/Winter film for 2021 and possibly one of my favourites of this year so far!

If you have watched The French Dispatch and wanted some more film recommendations that bring you similar feelings, I would suggest watching:

  • ‘Lady Bird’: a coming of age comedy surrounding the tale of a mother-daughter relationship 
  • ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’: Anderson’s adaptation of the beloved children’s book by Roald Dahl
  • ‘Little Women’: a beautiful retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s story with stars such as Emma Watson and Laura Stern
  • ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’: one of Anderson’s finest and most famous films that is perfect for anyone starting out to watch his works.

Overall, I would rate The French Dispatch very highly, giving it an 8.5/10. I would recommend all old and new cinema-lovers to go to watch it. No matter what the circumstances are, I guarantee this film will lift your spirits!

Words by: Eilidh Kirk

Edited by: Harsheni Maniarasan

Hi I'm Eilidh, a first year student at the University of Leeds where I am studying media and communications.
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