The French Dispatch: Wes Anderson Reunites With Our Favorite Actors
Wes Anderson crafts unique films that are like dollhouses full of complicated characters. We love the filmmaker's idiosyncratic stories and visual style, as seen in films like RUSHMORE, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, and THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. While his live-action films are cleverly constructed, Anderson takes things a step further in animated movies like FANTASTIC MR. FOX and ISLE OF DOGS. They're quite literally fabricated realities, full of hand-made stop-motion puppets.
The director's newest movie, coming to theatres soon, is THE FRENCH DISPATCH. The title refers to a "New Yorker"-like magazine published in Europe, and the movie is described as "a love letter to journalists." It's a chance to see the filmmaker reunite with some of his beloved regular cast members for a very different take on the newspaper movie.
A Simple, Brilliant Premise
The synopsis from Searchlight Pictures reveals that THE FRENCH DISPATCH "brings to life a collection of stories from the final issue of an American magazine published in a fictional 20th century French city." Which positions the movie very much in the Anderson wheelhouse, with a made-up city and a framework ready to support the oddball characters and slapstick scenarios that have become his calling cards.
Anderson's characters are creative; more than a few have been writers. ("I wrote a hit play!" exclaims Max Fisher in Anderson's breakout hit, RUSHMORE.) Yet he has never tackled journalism. There are a lot of newspaper movies out there, most of which are focused on the business of running a paper. THE FRENCH DISPATCH isn't so much about running the paper as it is about the stories on the page, which is a good way to lead both Anderson and the newspaper movie into new territory.
His First Anthology
[Image credit: Searchlight Pictures]
Because the film will explore the stories in the fictional magazine, THE FRENCH DISPATCH is Anderson's first true anthology film. In the past, he has made movies that play around with episodic formats and which bounce back and forth in time. Recently, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL did this in a bold way.
More specifically, THE FRENCH DISPATCH will feature three stories: One follows an imprisoned artist (Benicio del Toro) while another chronicles teen revolutionaries (Timothée Chalamet and Lyna Khoudri) and the third is about a chef (Stephen Park) who is "the great exemplar of the mode of cuisine known as Police Cooking." The first FRENCH DISPATCH trailer, above, introduces them all.
The idea of storytelling comes up over and over in Anderson’s work. There are family histories like THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, and lies that make us fall apart, as in RUSHMORE. We're excited to see Anderson fully engage with this concept, and it will be interesting to see what the different segments of the film are. Will they all be the same genre? Or will he branch out further, giving each "chapter" of the film a different look and feel? Since a paper has many kinds of editorial content, including cartoons, there's even room for animation.
New and Familiar Faces
Wes Anderson movies are reliably full of dramatic, dioramic cut-away shots, fussy intellectuals whose lives are falling apart, and brilliant needle drops. The best thing about Anderson's movies, however, are the ensemble casts assembled for each project.
The cast for THE FRENCH DISPATCH is stacked with regular Anderson players. Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Bob Balaban, and Frances McDormand all return to work with the director once again. Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray, who all owe entire phases of their careers to the director, are also on hand.
Anderson has also pulled in a grand set of new players, including Benicio del Toro, Timothee Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, and Stephen Park. While the segmented structure of the movie means that many of these actors might not be appearing on screen together, they’re still going to be part of the Wes Anderson ensemble. That could lead to future outings in the clad and exquisitely sound-tracked Anderson-verse.
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All images courtesy of Searchlight Pictures, unless otherwise indicated.