The French Dispatch: Wes Anderson’s Homage to The New Yorker and French Cinema

The trailer for the bluest Blue State movie ever has arrived

Wes Anderson is busting out the Futura font and plucky harpsichords once again in a celebrity-crammed homage to French cinema and The New Yorker in the new trailer for his tenth and latest film, The French Dispatch.

Bill Murray is an American journalist running a weekly magazine in midcentury France that fictionalizes staff members and stories profiled in The New Yorker. Murray is publishing a retrospective of the mag’s best stories in its final issue: an artist serving life in prison, student riots (based on real events), and a chef tangled up in a kidnapping.  The trailer bobs between color and black-and-white, and it’s a real dogpile of movie stars wearing quirky accessories and acting deadpan.

 

From what I could tell Owen Wilson is a beret-wearing layabout, Tilda Swinton is a Ted Talk-ish speaker with prosthetic teeth, Elizabeth Moss diagrams a mighty sentence (in a swift turnabout from The Handmaid’s Tale), and Benicio del Toro’s art is not for sale not even if Adrien Brody gives him his meltiest face. There are flash-cuts of Saoirse Ronan’s thigh and Frances McDormand frowning and Stephen Park wielding knives in a flaming kitchen. Anjelica Huston narrates; that lady could read the back of a Campbell’s soup can and it would sound like a Maya Angelou poem.

The movie is a billet-doux to French cinema, and the continental chic of midcentury France dovetails with Anderson’s vintage style: smoking in bathtubs, berets and bicycles, lush carpet and wallpaper, antique filing cabinets & typewriters, maps and canvas-bound books. Anderson’s flat, balanced framing echoes Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle, Playtime , Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday) and Jean-Pierre Melville’s The Red Circle. He could have lifted his honey-pastel palette and oddball characters straight out of a surrealist Jeunet movie.

Anderson has curated his reverence of mid-century analog style, along with a faithful stable of actors and tropes, into a structured overlay that fits snugly over a wide swath of characters and stories with the charm of a 1940’s middle school diorama. He can make the setting, characters, and context as bizarre as he wants. They’ll still be cohesive somehow because they’re so dependably and meticulously stylized, with overhead views of symmetrical lo-fi objects, swift tracking shots, doleful antiheroes, boxy shapes and limited colors that mimic storybook pacing and illustrations. The French Dispatch doesn’t look to be adding any new tiles. But it could be his coolest fever-dream yet.

Rachel Llewellyn

Rachel Llewellyn is a saucy media mercenary who's worked at Curve Magazine and Girlfriends Magazine in San Francisco, and ghost-edited two noir novels. She's also translated academic material, written corporate website content, taught adult school, and produced morning television news. Rachel lives in Bakersfield, California, where she hikes with her dog and pushes paper in the government sector.

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