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  • Writer's pictureEllis Barthorpe

The French Dispatch ★★★

Wes Anderson

Starring Tilda Swinton, Benicio Del Toro, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Adrien Brody, Timothée Chalamet, Bill Murray, Léa Seydoux, Owen Wilson, Lyna Khoudri, Willem Dafoe

Language in film is a hard one to speak. Ensuring that not only you are saying what you aim to say but also that an audience sees, hears and feels what you want them to. Wes Anderson has a very specific way of telling a story, and here he expects his audience to already know his language.

The French Dispatch details three stories at a magazine company, all narrated by a different actor (Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Jeffrey Wright respectively); his "little troupe" back again to tell a story as bizarre as usual.

However with these stars often comes opportunity for great performance and excellent comedic timing; Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou sees Willem Dafoe in a lesser seen comedic performance, Bruce Willis in Moonrise Kingdom and Brian Cox in Rushmore the same. But here, the incredible list of performers are somewhat underused and it's the performances in the first of the three stories that feel most like Wes Anderson's standard; Adrien Brody is the standout and Benicio del Toro and Léa Seydoux give excellent performances also.

You are expected to already know the style and symmetry seen in a Wes Anderson feature from the beginning, giving no comedic set piece or opening narration to ease new audiences in, and that may just be because this is Anderson's passion project.

The film does feel slow and sometimes awkwardly paced, with the best of the three stories appearing first, but there is as always a beauty in what the director puts in front of the camera. His visual messages and soothing palette are as always stunning. And there are interesting uses of shot; at one point a transition from film to digital and in others the picture switches between black & white and colour. This all seems to relate to the world of print media and its transition into first colour, and now the online format. It was the clever subtleties that I was more interested in.

Expecting a lot from its audience, The French Dispatch again showcases Anderson as an exceptional auteur and is as irreverent as can be. And though some people may find this a little self indulgent, there's nothing necessarily wrong with that when the self indulgence creates such stunning imagery.

Wes Anderson is fluent in his language, but audiences may just prefer the subtitles.

The French Dispatch available in select cinemas now

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