On the screens “The power of the dog” and “La Dépêche française”


PLANET CINEMA curated by Elio Rabbione

Jane Campion’s anti-Machism western, the blank pages of Wes Anderson’s magazine

(Left to right): Elisabeth Moss, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Fisher Stevens and Griffin Dunne in THE FRENCH DISPATCH movie. Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All rights reserved

In Montana in the mid-1920s (found in the lands and hills of New Zealand today), two very different brothers. Phil imposes himself with cowardice and scares, George is good-natured and submissive, taciturn and clumsy, far from everything and everyone, both owners of the largest ranch in the area. One fine day, George marries Rose, an ever-attractive widow who runs a kitchen and the few tables in the room and takes him home to the family ranch, with his son Peter, a misfit, introverted boy like no other. , loneliness and shyness made of a person, helps his mother to serve, while she cultivates curiosity for medicine and in the meantime she cuts flowers of different colors from the paper. As soon as they enter the house, Phil begins to laugh at them, to fulminate: it looks like jealousy, the fight between two brothers for the woman who has come to occupy a specific place in the house, and Jane Campion in this marvelous “The power of the dog” – the title is taken from a psalm of the Bible, the power of the strong over the weak – which is accompanied by a Silver Lion of the Venice Film Festival 12 years after the last “Bright Star”, for a while suggesting.

But hidden among the falling snow and forming soft white carpets on the ground, among the flocks which run and raise curtains of dust, between the mud and the clouds which gather in the distance as if to hide the mountains from the bare landscape , between the looks and the sudden and hidden silences are the sins, the feelings and the vices that no one wants to confess, the torments hatched in solitude: Rose hiding bottles everywhere and as soon as she can she sticks to them, Phil who takes care of his body and takes a bath in the river, which displays his masculine sensuality, which establishes a new relationship with the boy between gossip and looks that seem to go towards other tormented psychologies, after having accompanied the whistles of the many shepherds as the boy passed. The film (based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, from 1967, and which the author has divided into five chapters) clearly advance in the history of the characters, deepening them (also to George, an excellent Jesse Plemons, to whom we do not devote too much space, limited words and gestures are enough to find a precise and high dimension), stays away from this aestheticism that Campion has so often criticized, the harshness of each one sinks into that of the landscape, which becomes another character, anguished, dark and omnipresent. Benedict Cumberbatch gives a vigorous proof of troubled machismo to the foundations, far from these men of the prairie that we have known in the many westerns of the history of cinema, Kirsten Kunst seems to impose itself at times on the two colleagues and the young Kodi Smit -McPhee is Peter, capable of carving out his own space, with definite authority.

A corner of France, in the small town of Ennui-sur-Blasé (the name says a lot about the intentions or the final results of the film: something like “boredom of indifference to everything, boredom” ), modeled on the real good that of Angoulême, the writing of “The French Dispatch” – a sort of “The New Yorker” so dear to the author -, weekly supplement to the American newspaper “Evening Sun”, printed in Liberty, Kansas, a pretty leaf through diverse cultures, literature, art and haute cuisine. It is run by the revered owner, Arthur Howitzer jr: when the revered owner passes away, the editorial team decides to publish the best articles that have appeared in recent years. We will then discover the reporter who loves to ride his bike in the most infamous districts of the city, kingdom of pimps and whores, criminals and assassins; of the painter locked in prison, of his paintings and his muse who is none other than his prison guard, of the art dealers who with real greed demand his works; the student revolt in 1968; of an abduction foiled and successfully carried out by an excellent chef.

Wes Anderson builds, indifferently from his adored pastel colors to black and white, a film where he has lined up a veritable nursery of his favorite actors (Bill Murray in the first place, is his favorite actor, then Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, Frances McDormand , Jason Schwartzman, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Mathieu Amalric, Willem Defoe then the latest additions to the team, Timothée Chalamet, Léa Seydoux, Benicio del Toro, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and so on), some as the protagonist of this or that episode, others only for a moment, fleeting appearances to thicken the landscape. Unreal, surreal, pretentious, ambitiously empty, “a love letter to journalists” defines Anderson as his “French Dispatch”, presented at Cannes 2021 when he was already booked for Cannes 2020: but it seems rather a big disappointment, the report of a strip completely undone, badly decorative and taken for a ride. He leans on the decor and on the walls, on the curtains that visibly enter and disappear in the studio, he leans on the fixed room and on the twisted and claustrophobic atmospheres to fill them with tight and desperate dialogues (for the spectator) copious, it is based on a puzzle of which it will never find its central point and a perfect construction, where the joints leave something to be desired and where too many squares creak. The writer didn’t even see that originality that many have proclaimed, also because in the lame bill we wander the same streets that Anderson has walked over and over again, inspiration is something that doesn’t look too much like joke or pretentious entertainment. seems to me definitely absent. It’s hard to follow, we get bored, we risk getting up quickly from the chair and running away from the room, we fumble around for a story with something inside that is ready to look like to the concrete and which does not leave each space for formal solutions.


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