‘The French Dispatch’ Review: Remember Magazines? - The New York Times
Oct 21, 2021 1 min, 54 secs

Ever since it showed up in Cannes this past summer, “The French Dispatch” has been described as “a love letter to journalism.” This isn’t inaccurate — you love to see it when deadline scribblers are played by the likes of Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton — but it’s nonetheless a little misleading.

The movie is not Wes Anderson’s version of “Spotlight,” in which humbly dressed reporters heroically take on power, injustice and corruption.

What “The French Dispatch” celebrates is something more specific than everyday newspapering and also something more capacious.

Anderson has inscribed a billet-doux to The New Yorker in its mid-20th-century glory years that is, at the same time, an ardent, almost orgiastic paean to the pleasures of print.

Anderson isn’t really a polarizing figure; there isn’t much to argue about.

“The French Dispatch” is an herbarium of his preoccupations and enthusiasms, an anthology film laid out like a magazine, with a short front-of-the-book piece and three meaty features, all decked out with editorial bric-a-brac and a somber epilogue that may be the best part.

The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun is the full name of a weekly periodical that isn’t quite The New Yorker but also isn’t quite not The New Yorker.

Howitzer’s magazine, originally a supplement to his family’s small-town newspaper, is based in Ennui-sur-Blasé, a French metropolis that isn’t quite Paris but isn’t quite not Paris, either?

But the article he contributes to The French Dispatch is more like something A.J.

The mash-up, like much in the movie, seems both preposterous and somehow touchingly apt.

A certain amount of the delight you find in “The French Dispatch” may derive from your appreciation of the cultural moments and artifacts it evokes.

The French Dispatch existed for 50 years, shutting down in 1975, and “The French Dispatch” registers the loss of a particular set of values that blossomed in that era and have since fallen on hard times.

The madman’s work painted on Ennui’s asylum walls in “The Concrete Masterpiece” eventually finds a home in a Kansas museum “10 miles from the geographic center of the United States,” thanks to the good taste and business acumen of a prairie dowager (Lois Smith).

The French Dispatch.


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