The French Dispatch is Wes Anderson’s most Wes Anderson movie


With The French dispatch, Wes Anderson presents his most Wes Anderson film to date. As the director’s tenth film makes its theatrical debut, his visual style and narrative predilections are now firmly established and instantly recognizable in popular culture and especially among those who are passionate about his work. Aside from speculation about Wes Anderson’s James Bond, there have been critical studies, both romantic and comedic recreations in the mind, and even an illustrated book titled Accidentally Wes Anderson (with a preface by the man himself) detailing the impact Anderson’s aesthetic has had on photography around the world.

There have also been and continue to be discussions specifically devoted to determining which of the Wes Anderson films is, well, the most Wes Anderson of all. However, any arguments that have been approved in the past may well be cast aside now, in light of the latest addition to the Andersonian pantheon.

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As an anthology (the first of its kind for Wes Anderson), reviews for The French dispatch can be mixed, but the movie has quirks and spices and all that is nice – and any other ingredient that could certify a Wes Anderson movie as a Wes Anderson movie. And he has it all in spades.

The visual style of the French dispatch is the most recognizable of Wes Anderson

Benicio del Toro in La Dépêche française

The answer to the why The French dispatch is the most Wes Anderson film begins with a consideration of his visual qualities. Using his pastel color palette in conjunction with black and white, Anderson can also have his cake and eat it. He achieves this by using a well-established mix of light hues while playing in a monochrome space. Black-and-white photography may have been rare in his previous directorial endeavors, but Anderson’s first feature film Rocket in bottle– who even The Mitchells vs. the Machines references — is based on a short film of the same name that he shot entirely colorless. Already, The French dispatch has an advantage over its other feature films by merging color with an old penchant for black and white.

The aspect ratio is another facet that Wes Anderson likes to experiment with. In The Grand Hotel Budapest, for example, Anderson uses three separate ratios as framing devices, associating different time periods with appropriate screen dimensions. This time, he takes it a step further by incorporating the familiar blend of aspect ratios – at this point, a true Wes Anderson staple – and adding black and white to the mix. Not only is Anderson’s beloved Academy 1.37: 1 ratio present here, but it is present in both color and monochrome depending on what the narrative’s time frame deems appropriate. The screen also switches to a much larger 2.39: 1 screen (called an anamorphic widescreen) at certain points during the movie. The French dispatch thus changes the aspect ratio and color, a step up from Anderson’s earlier visual experimentation.

Anderson’s signature visual flair includes a number of other flourishes which are generously on display in The French dispatch. The symmetrical composition is arguably in the foreground, and there are geometrically more appealing shots here than in any previous Wes Anderson film. Of course, the whipped pans and tilts aren’t far behind, and Anderson’s favorite camera moves are enthusiastically deployed in The French dispatch. Then there are times when, almost on a whim, Anderson trades live-action in favor of animation – another of his darlings. The collage montage, title cards, and anything else that could make a Wes Anderson movie almost certainly can be found in The French dispatch. But visual flair isn’t all Anderson is known for.

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The history of the French dispatch is entirely Wes Anderson

Bill Murray sits at his desk in The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson has never made an anthology movie before The French dispatchРalthough he certainly dabbled in stories within stories and framing narratives. The Royal Tenenbaums, arguably his best film to date, opens with a shot of the book of the same name, followed by a prologue. The two act as framing devices for the rest of the narrative. Above all, the plot of The Grand Hotel Budapest is told in the form of written stories and memories that facilitate transitions in time and space, moving from story to story as the aspect ratio follows. This is the case in The French dispatch thus, where vignettes from the eponymous newspaper come to life and produce stories in the overall narrative, which details the publication of the latest issue of La D̩p̻che.

The setting and the subject have never been so recognizable to Wes Anderson as they are in The French dispatch. It’s the mid-20th century and the location is the quaint French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé, a fictional abstraction of what should be the most Wes Anderson place imaginable. The streets are populated by Europeans in their biggest European criminals and well dressed; the buildings are trendy outdated and tastefully designed, bearing the hallmarks of the Gallic artists of yesteryear. It’s no secret that The French dispatch is inspired by real life: it’s a love letter to journalism and Anderson’s healthy obsession with The New Yorker. It’s no surprise, then, that the film may therefore ring more true to Anderson’s heart than any of its forerunners.

As for the vignettes themselves, what could be more Wes Anderson than fine art, food, and a good old-fashioned French revolution? In the first of the journal’s “feature films,” Anderson lovingly pokes fun at modern art and tortured artists, with nude models, bossy art dealers, and accidental frescoes to accompany it. Follows a vignette featuring box office darling Timothée Chalamet who recalls Rushmore: a student revolt, a prohibited teacher / student affair and journalistic ethics are the main components. The last of the features focuses on the healing (and poisoning) power of haute cuisine and includes a police shootout and car chase that are cut from the same fabric as The Grand Hotel Budapest‘s mirror hijinks. The French dispatch is not just a motley collection of tales; it is an invocation of Anderson’s past filmography and a personification of his fiery passions.

The French Dispatch brings together the majority of Wes Anderson’s actors

Last on the list of ingredients that make The French dispatch Wes Anderson’s most film is the number of familiar faces among the dramatis personae. Anderson collects his actors as if it were a hobby, and several of his most regular patrons make appearances here. Bill Murray is the principal of them; the actor appears in ten Wes Anderson films — all except Rocket in bottle, to be precise — and, fittingly, takes on the role of Editor-in-Chief of The Dispatch. Owen Wilson doesn’t lag too far behind, with The French dispatch marking her eighth feature-length appearance in Andersonverse. Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston, Jason Schwartzmann, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, they’re all there too. It would be more of a challenge to name a Wes Anderson collaborator who is not in The French dispatch than it would be to name those who are.

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With Anderson’s troop present and counted, all that remains is to bid The French dispatch farewell as he ascends to the top of Wes Anderson’s oeuvre – ranked not from best to worst Wes Anderson film, but rather by how many of Wes Anderson’s characteristics each film contains. There is really nothing more Wes Anderson than his own latest work, and while it is fashionable to parody and imitate Andersonian authorism, it stands to reason that no one should do it better than the ancestor himself. The French dispatch is living proof of that – it’s something akin to Wes Anderson’s signature collection, and that’s good news for anyone who loves the distinguished filmmaker for his most distinctive qualities.

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  • The French Dispatch (2021)Release Date: October 22, 2021


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