As an loving ode to the spirit of journalism, “The French Dispatch” is everything you love about Anderson’s ever-evolving style and his penchant for whimsical weirdness. That’s a good thing here if you’re expecting that from the off-set but also a hinderance if you’re expecting something more.
We have another moving diorama of familiar actors acting odd for the sake of oddness and it’s glorious. I can never really get tired of that and it definitely helps that most of their characters have their own quirky little perks to stay mesmerizing, regardless of whether or not they really amount to anything.
This is probably the best cinematography he’s had yet. He has this relaxed rigid adherence to symmetrical and one shot framing that’s also interspersed with off-center framing and long diagonally framed scenes which lend a vitality often lacking in other films today. Add the striking alternation between color and black and white film and the pastel painting-like aesthetic and out of it comes a frenzied, refrained pace that carries the viewer along trippingly.
Every fabric and set piece is meticulously crafted to an absurd degree, editing is just as lively as the camerawork, the underlying balance between animation, real time and stop-motion remains eye-catching if not a little bit jarring, tone is fluttery and trippy throughout, Anderson’s direction speaks of a man who knows what he wants and loves what he does coupled with an infectiously feisty soundtrack from Alexandre Desplat, and it’s peppered with delicious satire cloaked under some admittedly dry humor that won’t get through to everyone.
It may come off as cold and isolated as TENET due to the lack of an overarching storyline and barely any character development…..and you’re right about that. But here’s the difference: TENET was one constantly elevating plot-line that was purposely designed to be so caught up on Nolan’s time-traveling mechanisms that you’d have to watch it multiple times just to decipher it…..and even when you do, you can’t really understand it, can you?
At least with Anderson, it sort of comes naturally. His bizarre intricacies in how he makes his films feel like quirky and weird is something we’ve all come to get adjusted to and we know he’s gonna deliver that without hesitation. Anderson doesn’t have to try too hard unlike Nolan….but even then, there-in lies my greatest issue here: I’m still a storyline-orientated kind of guy. For all of Anderson’s talents, how he uses his intricate production design and color palette as a blanket to peel back the more quieter layers of the characters and story was what I considered his most defining trait.
The lack of anything concrete here brings to light quite the conundrum I had to ponder: Anderson knows how to light a scene, how to inject emotion into anything via colors and sound, how to offer plenty of composition but without a solid or passable story underneath to sew those roots…..what is there, really, to gush about his pieces?
But maybe that’s the point: I can’t force the pieces to fit together because they weren’t designed that way. Each one stands out on its own; a piece with an impressionist take on France and the whimsical way of life…..and nobody does whimsical quite like Mr. Anderson.