“The French Dispatch” review: do you remember the magazines?


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It’s not really possible to spoil any of the major episodes, but it also makes no sense to try to sum them up. The cast is as huge and as heterogeneous as the list of names from a New York vacation poem “Greetings, Friends”:

Mathieu Amalric! Edouard Norton!
Elisabeth Moss and Jason Schwartzman!
Adrien Brody, Lyna Khoudri,
Owen Wilson, even Fonzie!

Etc. Tonal changes from melancholy to antique are a signature of Anderson, enhanced by transitions from black and white to color, live action to animation, and what could be the 1930s. or 40 to what could be the 60s or 70s.

After an introduction (with voiceover from Anjelica Huston) and a prose-poem tour of Boredom (led by Wilson on a bike), we settle into a stretch of what the real New Yorker liked to call “long fact” plays. “. Each feature film is indeed a double portrait: that of the writer at work on the story and that of a charismatic and elusive central character, against a backdrop of chaos and intrigue. Roebuck Wright is associated with a chef (Stephen Park); Lucinda Krementz (McDormand) with a rebellious student (Timothée Chalamet); JKL Berensen (Swinton) with a tormented painter (Benicio Del Toro). The fact that the two female writers are sleeping with their sources suggests that this love letter to journalism could have benefited from an editor concerned with repetition and cliché.

In any issue of any publication, some pieces will be stronger than others. “The Police Commissioner’s Private Dining Room,” Wright’s culinary crime story, is hectic and complicated, with a lovely bittersweet payoff. Swinton’s offering, “The Concrete Masterpiece,” with Del Toro in a straightjacket and Léa Seydoux in and out of an asylum guard uniform is, to me, both the dumbest of chapters and the most moving. “Revisions to a Manifesto”, with McDormand recounting a student demonstration in May 68 (and his affair with one of its leaders, played by Chalamet), seemed to me the finest and most arduous in his imagination, offering a pastiche of real-world events that flattens and trivializes them.

On the other hand, it reminded me of “Masculin Féminin”, one of my favorite Godard films. A certain amount of pleasure that you find in “The French Dispatch” may come from your appreciation of the cultural moments and the artefacts it evokes. Anderson expresses a fan’s zeal and a collector’s greed for canonical works and weird junk, a love for old modernisms that is neither dogmatic nor sentimental.

Which doesn’t mean insensitive. A sign above the door of Howitzer’s office reads “No Crying” and as a few tears flow down the screen, the stories themselves leave the viewer’s eyes almost dry. But there is something unmistakably elegiac about this dream of a bygone world. The French Dispatch existed for 50 years, closed in 1975, and “The French Dispatch” records the loss of a particular set of values ​​that flourished during that time and have since fallen into hard times.

The madman’s artwork painted on the walls of Boredom Asylum in “The Concrete Masterpiece” finally finds its way into a Kansas museum “10 miles from the geographic center of the United States”, thanks to good taste and meaning. from the affairs of a prairie dowager (Lois Smith). This is not a joke. She, Howitzer and the various misfits who land in Ennui represent an ideal of down-to-earth American cosmopolitanism, an approach to writing, culture and the world that is both democratic and sophisticated, driven by curiosity and heightened by ‘irony. The film is a love letter to this spirit, and also a ghost story.

The French dispatch
Classified R. Sex, murder, cigarettes. Duration: 1 hour 48 minutes. In theaters.

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