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Exceedingly good entertainment 4.5 Stars

Ostensibly a tale about journalists for a peculiarly French-based outpost feeding stories to a magazine based in the American Midwest, Director Wes Anderson, working from his own screenplay based on a story co-written with Roman Coppola and Hugo Guinness, delivers art incarnate in The French Dispatch. From expressions of the written art to mad artists, art lovers, food art, revolution art, and historical art, there’s a wonderful beating heart of the pursuit of art as its own endeavor at play here. Every ounce of Wes Anderson’s creativity is brought to bear in this film, and that undiluted sensibility gives us the most Wes Anderson movie yet. It’s a joy to behold. Dense with detail, diorama filmmaking, and a delectable cinematic decoupage, The French Dispatch is a joyful experience. Recommended.

The French Dispatch (2021)
Released: 22 Oct 2021
Rated: R
Runtime: 107 min
Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton
Writer(s): Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness
Plot: A love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional twentieth century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in "The French Dispatch Magazine".
IMDB rating: 7.3
MetaScore: 74

Disc Information
Studio: Disney
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Other
Rating: R
Run Time: 1Hr. 45 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Standard Blu-ray, no sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 12/28/2021
MSRP: $19.96

The Production: 4.5/5

“Maybe with good luck we’ll find what eluded us in the places we once called home.”

Upon the death of Arthur Howitzer Jr., editor for the magazine, The French Dispatch, which appears in an American newspaper in Kansas, a final, farewell edition, according to the editor’s willed wishes, is prepared. Three major pieces from three of the magazine’s well-regarded journalists form most of the edition, along with an introductory piece and an obituary for the late Howitzer. The stories, anchored in the fictional French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé, tell revealing tales of their writers but are far more interested in the subjects than the author, and so we explore corners and times within the city filled with remarkable characters and bizarre moments of interest and intrigue.

Wes Anderson’s artistic imprint is unmistakable; a style of visual flavors and rich mis en scene, carefully crafted movement, and precision timing. I’ve been trying to understand what makes his filmmaking approach work so delightfully and it struck me that it’s like unpacking a densely crafted watch to see the deep intricacies of how all the cogs and mechanisms form and fit so tightly together. Experiencing a Wes Anderson film, particularly The French Dispatch, is like taking a guided stroll through the elaborate innards of a beautiful custom watch and savoring the marvel of it all. Anderson delights in the details of the worlds he assembles; always reality adjacent and as if manifest from the quirky imagination of some undiscovered artist in an unremarkable corner of the world where that artist’s imagination is all that keeps them alive. And I mean that as a compliment.

In The French Dispatch, once we get past the likable palette cleanser segment, The Cycling Reporter, featuring Owen Wilson as Herbsaint Sazerac who explores Ennui on his bike and contrasts the past with the now and marvels at how little they are different, Anderson offers up three delightful short narratives, flavor variations on a dish you know you already love tied together under the premise of the magazine’s goodbye edition. He creates, as is his nature, whimsical worlds that couldn’t possibly exist and enjoys a dashing run of intriguing and impractical characters. Besides the overwhelming of the senses with color, set detail, and cleverly constructed camera movements, it is the characters and the tremendous talents that realize them that makes an Anderson film so special.

To explain too much what each of the segments offers would rob you of the fun going in cold but suffice to say the first segment is the most satisfying, but each are special. The structure of the film, which has us witnessing the stories in the order we would read them in the fictional magazine, is nested with stories told about the writing of the stories we’re witnessing. That added dimension complicates the experience in such a wondrous way that you’ll be eager for a second viewing right away.

Across the segments, performances are a delight of precision and playful pretense. Benicio Del Toro’s maniacal artist, Moses Rosenthaler, is captivating, Adrien Brody’s art lover Julian Cadazio, humorous, Tilda Swinton’s J.K.L Berensen is outrageously abstract, Léa Seydoux’s Simone a masterful muse, Frances McDormand’s Lucinda Krementz compelling, Timothée Chalamet’s Zeffirelli prodigious and pretentious, Bill Murray’s Howitzer funny and forthright, Owen Wilson’s Sazerac light and likable, and Jeffrey Wright’s James Baldwin-inspired Roebuck Wright, deliberate, distinct, and delightfully dapper.  These are the main players, but the rest of the cast is replete with fine talent who deliver on Anderson’s style and story without a false note in site. The cast is everything.

If you are a fan of Anderson, The French Dispatch will impress. It’s like a distilled version of all that Anderson has promised and delivered before, but more intricate and clearly defined than ever. I loved The French Dispatch and highly recommend the film but must say that for all Anderson’s distinct and impressive stylings, there is a routine absence of emotional connection. He comes close on occasion, particularly with Jeffery Wright and Frances McDormand; however, Anderson seems more interested in the intellectual examination of people and places, and an intellectual examination of the things the drive emotion (love, loss, anger, passion), than the raw experience of those things. It is a choice. He doesn’t reach for those things and falter. He simply does not reach for them. And I think that’s okay.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

A splendid looking Blu-ray, The French Dispatch shifts aspect ratios and between color and black and white to punctuate the narrative elements. The style and colors of this Wes Anderson production offer up marvels for our eyeballs. Colors are rich and dense, clarity and detail are exquisite for HD, and contrast, particularly in the black and white segment, is delicious. I am sure a UHD release would reveal more detail and HDR grading would allow the vibrant colors to pop more, but it’s impossible not to be mesmerized by how spectacular the framed, layered world Anderson has created for this feature looks already.

Audio: 4.5/5

Released with an English 5.1 DTS-HDMA track, you’ll be most struck by the captivating sounds of another Alexandre Desplat score, which delight the aural senses. All the flavors of French music, without becoming parody or caricature, are what Desplat offers here. The sounds of prison, youth uprisings, and kidnapping chaos make reasonable use of the surrounds, as well. An audio offering the aptly suits the film.

Special Features: 0/5

This release does not contain any special features (just a digital code). One can only hope that Criterion has the chance to release this film down the line with the usual collection of film-enthusiast-friendly extras.

Overall: 4.5/5

Ostensibly a tale about journalists for a peculiarly French-based outpost feeding stories to a magazine based in the American Midwest, Director Wes Anderson, working from his own screenplay based on a story co-written with Roman Coppola and Hugo Guinness, delivers art incarnate in The French Dispatch. From expressions of the written art to mad artists, art lovers, food art, revolution art, and historical art, there’s a wonderful beating heart of the pursuit of art as its own endeavor at play here. Every ounce of Wes Anderson’s creativity is brought to bear in this film, and that undiluted sensibility gives us the most Wes Anderson movie yet. It’s a joy to behold. Dense with detail, diorama filmmaking, and a delectable cinematic decoupage, The French Dispatch is a joyful experience. Recommended.

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Published by

Neil Middlemiss

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titch

Screenwriter
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Kevin Oppegaard
A very good review, although I personally would not have held back from awarding it top marks! Absolutely the film I enjoyed the most at the cinema last year. I have all of Wes Anderson's films in my library and I now think The French Dispatch is his best one, after seeing them all again, immediately after I saw The French Dispatch in November. Some people have complained that the portmanteau structure makes this inferior to The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr. Fox or Moonrise Kingdom, but I'm not one of them. It's the most "Wes Anderson" of all Wes Anderson's films! Endless rewatchability!

I immediately checked the black and white scene with the naked Léa Seydoux, to see if the fine patina of grain in the picture on the blu-ray was identical to the cinema picture - it was. So it confirms that the video picture is reference quality. (And Léa Seydoux is FAR better in this film, than she was moping around in the last James Bond flick).
 

mskaye

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Michael Kochman
You had me at Wes Anderson. I can't wait to get this. It was the first film I saw in a theater last year and I cried when it started. I love it. Dense as hell (probably 10 viewings wouldn't exhaust the detail in every corner of the frame) but also a beautiful and creative collage of a movie. Has some of his most touching moments too.
 

titch

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Kevin Oppegaard
Agree but then again you should never dismiss anything by Wes Anderson outright.
Wes Anderson is a Marmite filmaker. You either like his films, or you really don't.
IMG_6612.jpg
 

Reggie W

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Pike Bishop
Great review! I am one of those people that love Wes Anderson films. So, I really had a great time watching this. I think the only weakness of the film is that the section with Benicio Del Toro is the best of the chapters and it comes early in the film. The primary effect of that being that the rest of the film does not live up to that section. I made comments about this in another thread on The French Dispatch.

I don't think this was the best of his work and probably is mostly a picture for Wes Anderson fans than one that will win over new acolytes. It is a bit of a love letter to a fictional France which is also fun.
 

titch

Screenwriter
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Kevin Oppegaard
Great review! I am one of those people that love Wes Anderson films. So, I really had a great time watching this. I think the only weakness of the film is that the section with Benicio Del Toro is the best of the chapters and it comes early in the film. The primary effect of that being that the rest of the film does not live up to that section. I made comments about this in another thread on The French Dispatch.

I don't think this was the best of his work and probably is mostly a picture for Wes Anderson fans than one that will win over new acolytes. It is a bit of a love letter to a fictional France which is also fun.
Au contraire! I think the chapter "The Private Dining Room of The Police Commissioner by Roebuck Wright" was the undeniable highlight!
 

Reggie W

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Au contraire! I think the chapter "The Private Dining Room of The Police Commissioner by Roebuck Wright" was the undeniable highlight!

I did really like that segment as well. I have to admit though when Del Toro rises up above his canvas at the start of his segment with that smile on his face...I immediately had a good laugh.
 

Kent K H

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I'm a huge Wes Anderson fan, but this was a like-it-not-love-it film for me, so I can wait for the inevitable Criterion release on it, whereas I pick most of his films up immediately from the studio.
 

Angelo Colombus

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Angelo Colombus
Thanks to my local library i did watch the movie for the first time recently and did like it especially the prison and the kidnapping of the kid segments. Amazon had the Blu-ray for $14 so i purchased it.