LFF: THE FRENCH DISPATCH

After a year of delays Wes Anderson’s tenth feature film is finally getting a worldwide release at the end of the month – and fivethreeninety has an early review courtesy of London Film Festival.

Anderson directs a huge ensemble cast of many Hollywood’s finest in a film centred around the final issue of a magazine that shares it’s title with the name of the film: ‘The French Dispatch’. It’s a charming, quirky and humorous little love letter to the world of traditional magazine publication, and all of course with that signature Anderson aesthetic.

The film is structured like a magazine, with separate stories making up the travel, art and feature segments respectively: I’m not sure this works narratively in the traditional sense, and it can be a lot to fathom the more stories we process; but it’s off the wall and charming for it.

The comedy works very well here with a huge array of small moments with precise humour that achieve big laughs. It’s this steady pace of biting one liners and abrupt physical comedy that keep a consistency to the entire film throughout its changing stories, and though this is pleasing each time feels short-lived.

The viewpoint very much feels like an outside perspective; which means although the characters and premise are charming and fascinating, the audience lacks a relationship with any of them and causes the film to lose a little compassion.

There are a vast amount of performances here, with the highlights being Benicio Del Toro as imprisoned artist Moses Rosenthaler accompanied by Léa Seydoux as his probation officer muse Simone. Timothée Chalamet as activist Zeffirelli is delightful; Tilda Swinton’s slide show presenting J. K. L. Berensen is delightfully zany and Owen Wilson’s travel writer leads us into the first story by directly addressing the audience in a friendly manner.

Wes Anderson seems to experiment more with his signature aesthetic here; with some segments existing almost wholly in black and white, and also a really beautiful animation sequence with a low frame count that feels almost Tintin in nature. This minor expansion on the infamous style is noticeable, though again not overly cohesive with the film as a whole.

Darling with a steady stream of small moments that get big laughs, the only thing missing from Wes Anderson’s latest is a greater connection to more of it’s characters that could guide it’s experimental narrative with more effectiveness.

However, The French Dispatch does grow on it’s audience in an indescribable way. The story may not always stick, but the charm does inexplicably. It’s not Anderson’s best, but it’s certainly not at his worst either.

The French Dispatch is released in UK cinemas on 22nd October

Follow fivethreeninety’s London Film Festival coverage here

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