Film School: The French Dispatch (2021)

The French Dispatch (2021) The French Dispatch (2021)

A round-up of breakdowns of Wes Anderson’s rich, intricate film.

With such a distinctive trademark aesthetic, it’s easy to take each Wes Anderson film as “just another” Wes Anderson film. However, this not only gives little credit to the work of developing that aesthetic in the first place, it also dismisses any unique achievements within the individual films themselves. The French Dispatch (2021) is the work of an artist at the peak of their powers: it builds upon the style and craft developed by the writer/director throughout his filmography, and concentrates them into a higher density of stories, locations, and set pieces, as well as a richer assortment of aesthetics, technical craft, and emotional beats than perhaps any of his films prior. Anderson’s fluency in his cinematic language at this point belies just how complex, and frankly mind-boggling this film really is.

For me personally, in a film bursting with a variety of delights from start to finish, the chapter ‘The Private Dining Room of the Commissioner’ features perhaps the most singularly moving performance (from Jeffrey Wright) and surprisingly moving storytelling in a Wes Anderson film to date. Sidenote (and this is really not my first, second, or even twenty-second takeaway from this film): should one be concerned that at least two of the journalists portrayed in the film have affairs with their subjects?


The Discarded Image maps How The Stories Connect in The French Dispatch:


Thomas Flight examines The Absurd Intricacy of The French Dispatch:


The production team took over a small French town to create the “alternate studio spaces” for the sheer number of sets required (via Greenlight Filmmaking):


The intricacy on display in the various practical and composite effects in blink-and-you-miss-them shots is staggering (from 2:37):

Further Reading

Wes Anderson’s key grip, Sanjay Sami, details for Matt Zoller Seitz how he designs and builds in order to realise the director’s often unprecedented, theoretically impossible shots, such as this 70-second tracking shot in The French Dispatch (via Vulture):

Further Viewing

Many of the characters and stories in the film are based on real-life figures and events. Tilda Swinton‘s movie-stealing performance as J.K.L. Berensen is based on art lecturer, or self-described “professional talker”, Rosamond Bernier (segment begins at 7:45):

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