The French Dispatch: For All Your Escapism Needs

One moment I haven’t been to a cinema in eighteen months, the next I have seen two films in the space of less than a week, and both of them starring Timothée Chalamet too. Life is fully of surprises. After Dune, a film I had been looking forward to for over a year, The French Dispatch was a film I went to see on a whim. The trailer looked nice, my brother had already seen the film and liked it, and with wintry darkness drawing in I was in the mood for some cinematic distraction.

The French Dispatch is a Wes Anderson film. Some people love his work, some hate it. I tend to be in the love camp. While I am yet to catch up on his earlier and more famous work I loved the quirky beauty of Isle of Dogs. If The French Dispatch would be even remotely similar it was worth my time, I reasoned.

I’m not going to bother with a plot summary – there is no overarching plot as such, and anyway, it’s not important. Something to do with a magazine loosely based on The New Yorker but mostly an excuse for Anderson to bring great actors together on incredibly ornate sets to do quite wonderful things. Of course, those who like their films plot-driven will find this disappointing. Me, however, I read books if I want plot. Films, for me, should look interesting before doing anything else.

The French Dispatch has plenty of interesting things to look at. Anderson is known and often parodied for this and to some it may seem tired and tedious by now. What can I say? He is who he is. I like it when a creator has their own unique vision and will go the extra mile to share it with humble viewers like me.

The French Dispatch, in short, is nice. It looks great, the music is beautiful, the shorter stories of which the plot consists funny and, dare I say it, moving. It is a great film to watch in tired and angry times. I for me often long for a holiday in a fictional French city, to rub elbows with young revolutionaries, or cycle across the cobblestones in search of stories. Anderson’s world is imagined, neat, and constructed, but isn’t any film? Without the illusion of realism to keep up the film goes wherever imagination can take it which, it turns out, is from prison to corpse-filled river. Because there’s a sinister edge to proceedings too, if only to stop things from becoming too sugary.

And then there’s the soundtrack with Jarvis Cocker’s wonderfully overblown cover of Christoph’s song Aline. I could go on. Just go and see this film already. With the real world looking like a sleet-covered scrapheap at the moment we’ll need all the optimism and beauty we can get to make it through the months to come.

Photo by Jaël Vallée on Unsplash

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