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The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir-scr Wes Anderson
prd Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales
with Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Adrien Brody, Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Lea Seydoux, Timothee Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Stephen Park, Mathieu Amalric, Liev Schreiber, Saoirse Ronan
release US/UK 22.Oct.21
21/France Searchlight 1h48
CANNES FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Wes Anderson creates yet another offbeat, fully realised universe in this witty homage to old-school journalism. With a fabulous cast of hundreds, including at least two dozen A-list stars, the film has a sprawling feel to it but remains engagingly intimate as it traces a series of contained stories. Mainly set in the 1970s, it's even more gorgeously designed than expected, packed with hilarious touches and audaciously inventive storytelling.
Published for 50 years in Ennui-sur-Blasé, France, The French Dispatch is a Sunday travelogue supplement for a Kansas newspaper. Founder-editor Albert (Murray) has a loyal team of writers, including Sazerac (Wilson), who covers local culture from his bicycle. Berenson (Swinton) writes about psychopathic inmate Moses (Del Toro), whose abstract paintings of his prison guard (Seydoux) grab the attention of an ambitious art dealer (Brody). Lucinda (McDormand) gets over-involved with a soulful student (Chalamet) who's leading street protests. And Roebuck (Wright) is covering the messy kidnapping of the precocious son of a police commissioner (Amalric).
Within the overall framing device of Albert's death in 1975, the script further frames each of the three main stories in a distinctive style, shifting between Anderson's trademark golden colour palette and vividly textured black and white. Each shot is so packed with details that we want to freeze the frames and explore them at out leisure, and there are several cleverly staged frozen tableaux to take in as well, all within Anderson's playful use of sets and settings. Meanwhile, the jaunty overall toe and often laugh-out-loud comedy are underscored with earthy emotion.
The cast is excellent, infusing characters with sparky flair that brings them to life even within Anderson's controlled direction. Swinton, McDormand and Wright shine in the largest roles, standing out as storytellers even as they remain integrated into the vast ensemble. Other standouts include Chalamet's laconic rebel and his angry foil Khoudri, Brody's hyper-keen arts patron and, briefly, Ronan's junkie showgirl. Even the extras are bursting with presence as they add their own quirky touches everywhere.
Aside from being thoroughly entertaining on a range of comical and emotional levels, the film is packed with provocative thoughts about art, culture and whether there is actually such a thing as journalistic neutrality. Each character has his or her whole life in play, intersecting at random points to broaden the scope. And Anderson's singular stylings provide the connective tissue. But most of all, this is cinema of sheer, unapologetic delight.
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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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