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Tuesday 30 November 2021

Burl reviews The French Dispatch! (2021)


Eh bonjour friends! Yes, Burl has returned to review another picture, and this is yet one more movie I saw on the big screen, to my great joy! I’ve been hitting matinees mostly, so there’s nobody around and things feel pretty safe, pestilence-wise! Ha ha, and for this particular matinee I went with an old pal, one of my very oldest in fact, and he’s probably a fellow I haven’t been to a movie with since the 80s or early 90s! That’s a long time! The picture was of course the newest Wes Anderson joint, the one generally known as The French Dispatch!

Like The Life Aquatic, it has an actual title that’s longer than I care to write out in full, ha ha, and like The Grand Budapest Hotel, it takes place mostly in the mid-Century Europe with which Anderson is evidently obsessed! Ha ha, I recognize a fellow enthusiast! And we know the picture tells the tale of the magazine after which the picture is named, which is of course based on the New Yorker and the staff and writers of that venerable publication!

Bill Murray, famous from Ghostbusters and of course many other Anderson pictures, from Rushmore on up, is every writer’s fantasy editor, indulging his scribes to a degree never seen in reality! (Though he’s not, it should be noted, the ideal employer if you’re a mere copy boy!) As a former newspaper editor myself, I appreciate the near-deification such a character is accorded simply by casting Murray to play him!

Life around the French Dispatch office, located in “Ennui-en-Blasé, France” (which name, thank goodness gets the bad French jokes out of the way quickly) provides the picture’s exoskeleton, and the meat of it is the three feature stories printed in the magazine’s final issue! First up is a jailhouse tale featuring Benicio Del Toro from Inherent Vice as Moses Rosenthaler, a near-feral prisoner accused of the gruesome attack-murders of three bartenders, who proves to be an accomplished painter once he finds a subject, muse, and lover in guard Simone, played by Léa Seydoux from No Time to Die! Adrien Brody from Midnight in Paris is the art dealer Cadazio, who champions the artist while ignoring his wolfman-like growls; this tale is related by correspondent J.K.L. Berenson, played by Tilda Swinton from The Dead Don’t Die!

Another writer, this one called Mrs. Krementz and played by Frances McDormand from Darkman, tells the next story! This one is set during a fictionalized take on the student uprisings of the late 60s, with Timothée Chalamet from Dune Part One leading the intellectual faction, meanwhile having his first affair with Mrs. Krementz and then his second with a pretty fellow radical!

The author of the third story is played by Jeffrey Wright from Only Lovers Left Alive, here affecting a Roscoe Lee Browne accent to play Roebuck Wright! His tale involves a kidnapping and the involvement of an accomplished police chef, and features Mathieu Amalric from The Forbidden Room as the police chief and Steve Park from Fargo as Nescaffier, the police chef! Ha ha!

Owen Wilson from Anaconda, Bob Balaban from Moonrise Kingdom, Henry Winkler from Night Shift, Christoph Waltz from Django Unchained, Fisher Stevens from The Burning, Liev Schreiber from The Daytrippers, Willem Dafoe from Streets of Fire, Edward Norton from Fight Club, and Griffin Dunne from An American Werewolf in London all appear in smaller roles, so it must be noted that the cast is a pretty thrilling one! More thrilling still is the wealth of detail woven into each of the stories as well as the wraparound business, and the pictorial amusements with which the picture is well stuffed! There’s some great model work, marvelous gags, and an animated sequence that perhaps goes on a little long! Ha ha, and if you’re at all a student of the New Yorker, its history, and its writers, you’ll get that much more out of the whole thing!

I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed myself at this movie, and do you know what? My childhood friend, Rob by name, did too, notwithstanding the lumpenproletarian that he is! Whether it all comes together in the end is more of a personal decision than a critical one, I think, but I myself had a terrific time, and so I give The French Dispatch three and a half pop stars named Tip-Top!

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