The French Dispatch Review – An Entertaining Homage to Publishing

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The French Dispatch, from Searchlight Films, brings to the screen the avant-garde bohemian life of 1960s Paris, as told by journalists on assignment for the magazine The French Dispatch, as they present the story behind the words.

As the film begins, we see the staples of a writer's life, during that unconventional time, come to life, with caffeine, coffee and cigarettes and all combinations of adrenaline producing beverages being delivered in typical French fashion with a flourish and a finely dressed waiter balancing his tray with finesse as he bounds up the staircase, five flights up to the offices of The French Dispatch.


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Throughout we meet the writers, staff, and others, those strays like wandering cats, who have found a home among the books, smell of stale smoke and the thrill of publishing. We meet the publisher, a tough but tender American born Kansas native Arthur Howitzer, Jr., played by Bill Murray, who for reasons known or unknown left the cornfields of middle America, the life he was born into, for the dream or fantasy, of the life he wanted.

Told in four vignettes, the words on the page are resuscitated to celluloid, as the memories of the journalist and the subjects, flow into the creation of the four stories. With each section of the magazine receiving a frontispiece, the sketches focus on the absurd, the unusual, the unconventional, the stories which made it to print.


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A travelogue of the seediest sections of the city itself from "The Cycling Reporter," played by Owen Wilson who rides through the streets of the French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé documenting the changes from old ways of the peaceful countryside town to the rise of the 1960s revolution and the explosion of freedom.

"The Concrete Masterpiece," about a criminally insane painter, played by Benicio Del Toro, his guard and muse, played by Léa Seydoux, and his ravenous dealers, led by Adrien Brody and the Culture and Arts editor, played by Tilda Swinton.

"Revisions to a Manifesto," a chronicle of love and death on the barricades at the height of student revolt features Timothée Chalamet and Frances McDormand.

And from the Fine Dining Section, "The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner," a suspenseful tale of drugs, kidnapping and fine dining with journalist Roebuck Wright, played by Jeffrey Wright recounting the story to talk show host, played by Liv Schreiber.


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As the stories are weaved together, we travel with them as Howitzer interacts with his writers and staff, with his drool humor and attempts at bottom line pitches, at heart his journalistic skills supersede as he gently leads his writers to bring the best stories. Part publisher, part confessional, he hears all and see all and understands the humanity is the special ingredient that sells the magazine.

Director Wes Anderson delivers with The French Dispatch a homage to the thrill of publishing and the notion that an audience somewhere actually finds the work appealing, interesting even, serves to energizes and rejuvenates writers to push the envelope.

An ensemble cast of well-known talent inhabit each of the vignettes. His cast of characters are made up of the familiar, those we have seen in many of Anderson's films and those who are new to his avant-garde style and humor.

The French Dispatch is slightly unusual and filled with oddities which pull the audience into these mini stories of life in a quickly changing world. Attention grabbing and distinctive Director Wes Anderson puts his unique signature on the world of publishing. It's a page turner.

The French Dispatch opens Friday, October 22, 2021, exclusively in theaters. See it.


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Country: USA.

Language: English.

Runtime: 107minutes.

Director: Wes Anderson. 

Screenplay: Wes Anderson.

Produced: Wes Anderson, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson.

Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Liv Schreiber, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Christoph Waltz, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Anjelica Huston. 

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