The French Dispatch review – Wes Anderson’s ode to print journalism is a periodic delight

Amazing visuals, lots of laughs and an A-list cast – including Bill Murray – make Anderson’s tribute to the New Yorker a real treat

No one is more spoofed than Wes Anderson: his savant mannerisms, sonorous voiceovers and detailed rectilinear compositions are now so familiar that certain quarters of YouTube have become overrun with Anderson pasticheurs, like Elvis impersonators in Vegas. And with this over-familiarity has come a bit of a backlash – a feeling that Wes Anderson is a tiresome undergraduate taste.

His new film, The French Dispatch, long delayed by Covid, has on the strength of the extensively picked-apart trailer, been condemned as more of the same. To which I can only say … sure, yes, more fun, more buoyancy, more elegance, more marvellously eccentric invention, more originality. It might not be at the very zenith of what he can achieve but for sheer moment-by-moment pleasure, and for laughs, this is a treat.

The French Dispatch is a riff on and tribute to the New Yorker magazine, with its legendary roster of writers, famed insistence on standards, collegiate office culture, distinctive cartoons and typographic layout, metropolitan sophistication targeted at a general American readership – in fact, I wonder why we haven’t noticed the New Yorker as an Anderson influence before now.

The French Dispatch itself is supposed to be a special feuilleton-type supplement in a fictional Kansas newspaper, a guide to the intellectual life of France produced in the magazine’s late 60s heyday by a gallery of brilliant American expatriates in the imagined provincial French town of Ennui-Sur-Blasé – although that name is the one moment where the comedy gets a little too broad.

The movie is a kind of short story anthology, taking place in a postmodern Clochemerle, based on the long-read reportage performances of its superstar writers, who almost all have some personal, and indeed sexual, involvement with what is going on, quite against dull ideas about journalistic neutrality. Continue reading “The French Dispatch review – Wes Anderson’s ode to print journalism is a periodic delight”