I wasn’t able to watch a new film yet but here’s one of my favorites from last year.
When I watched the trailer, as excited as I was being a huge Wes Anderson fan, I thought to myself “Wow this looks like a lot, but what is it really?”. But to put it simply, as Wes Anderson describes it, the French Dispatch is an anthology, the New Yorker, and a French movement all in one.
Wes Anderson has always been one of my favorite directors. To be quite honest, his work probably made the most impact in the way I compose my shots. I’ve always been so enamored by the intricate framing, planimetric and symmetrical composition, and his dollhouse-like set designs. You can see just how detailed he gets into his work since he usually is the one framing the shots. One beautiful frame covers so many controlled stylistic elements and decisions: the visual tempo, the set design, the production design, the costume design, the blocking of the characters.. and so much more. Everything is so well planned to create this playful dollhouse treatment that is Wes Anderson’s world. Though this film strays away from this dreamlike world a bit and actually plays around with realism. And what I love most about his work is that despite its playful quirky treatment, Wes Anderson’s themes are actually quite heavy and dark. As for this film, he was touching on freedom during the student revolution of the late 60’s in France. A time of discovering ego and intellect and rejecting Republican authority. He focused on writers as being heroes and he displayed the power of their craft. He praised writers through this film.
Watching another work of his was nothing short of being in total awe. He goes above and beyond in this film.. which I didn’t know could be possible after his last few magnificent works. But right off the bat, it may seem very hard to follow since there are several narratives, a bunch of A-list characters, and a ton of dialogue that goes on. So being focused on the film is a must.
There is much to say about the technical aspects of this film. There are chapters in this film and each of them are actually narratives about the writers and the stories they told on unique and exemplary individuals at the time. Wes actually had real people and actual editorials in mind when creating this whole screenplay. Though there are a lot of characters in the film, he still makes it a point to introduce them in a very interesting way. He always creates these quirky montages that display their personality right away. In this film, he also uses supers (or text on screen) to highlight important lines in a dialogue. Another stylistic decision he did was use split screen frames to show historical sides of a place, a time, or a person. I loved this little quirky take. This was something fresh from him.
As for the cinematography, how can he ever go wrong? I’m a massive geek whenever I study his composition. He never strays away from his distinct style. He explores switches from black & white to colored shots, and even frequently changes the aspect ratio. All with intention to switch from past to present. As for the sets.. You could already smell the high budget by looking at each set used in the film. Just incredible. I loved one of his sets so much, the newsstand, that I even used it as a peg for my bestfriend Issa’s music video, “Losin’ A Grip”.
I think the most unique addition to Wes Anderson’s ever-growing style though was the choreography, timing, and blocking of the characters. In this film, he uses many talents in one shot and choreographs freezes, perfectly timed looks, perfectly timed camera movements to enhance a prominent beat or prominent detail of a scene. The cinematography paired with intricate choreography and timing creates the unique Wes Anderson shot.
The French Dispatch truly is a remarkable work of Wes Anderson. It not only educates you on French history, but also educates you on the power of writing. And beyond the narrative, you could just see how much Wes Anderson was playing around and just being an artist in the highest sense of it. It is perfectly described by Thomas Flight as a film that “celebrates the joy of stylistic excess, of having fun with storytelling, and showcasing your creative personality even in the midst of telling serious stories”. A must watch.