“The French Dispatch”, journalism and France dreamed of by Wes Anderson


I have been assigned 6,347 signs for this review, intended to be laid out and printed, which is great since it identifies a film that celebrates journalism in the age of ink and paper. My remarks on The French Dispatch, the exquisite feature film by Wes Anderson presented after more than a year of waiting (the film was to open the 2020 Cannes Film Festival), could hold in 2,500 signs that I would not break the instructions: It would be enough for me, below the signature, to unroll the directory of the dramatic art which takes place of credits, where dozens of actors rub shoulders, from Tilda Swinton to Damien Bonnard, from Benicio Del Toro to Lyna Khoudri, from Stéphane Bak to Saoirse Ronan (and of course, since we are with Wes Anderson, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson).

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These legions from both sides of the Atlantic responded to Wes Anderson’s call, sometimes only to say a single line, to be just a brick, a tile, a paneling …, in the building that the filmmaker has carefully built to the glory of a certain idea of ​​journalism and – especially – cinema. The point here is not to represent reality, but to take from it fragments of the incongruous, the bizarre and the beautiful and to organize everything in the form of a story. Of stories, in the case of The French Dispatch, since the scenario of this film is presented in the form of a magazine railroad (the unfolding of the pages that are displayed on the wall).

In each of the journalists, we can recognize certain features of the great names of the “New Yorker”, Joseph Mitchell, Lillian Ross or James Baldwin, without “The French Dispatch” being a key film.

The French Dispatch (“La Dépêche de France”) is published weekly The New Yorker, founded by Harold Ross in 1925, what the town of Ennui-sur-Blasé (two French words that have found their place in theOxford English Dictionary) is in Paris. A stylized, ironic and dreamlike image, recognizable and imaginary. The French Dispatch was born from the will of Arthur Howitzer Jr., son of the founder and owner of the daily newspaper in Liberty (Kansas) The Evening Sun. The offspring convinced his father to finance this Sunday supplement dedicated to chronicling the planet’s progress and established its writing in Ennui-sur-Blasé (it was the prefecture of Charente, Angoulême, which landed the role, for exteriors).

Over the years, Howitzer has secured the collaboration of some of the best writers of his time, an eternal tourist in the shallows, a reporter unable to steer clear of subjects entrusted to her, an eternal exiled, gay and Afro-American… In each of them, we can recognize certain traits of the great signatures of the New Yorker, Joseph Mitchell, Lillian Ross or James Baldwin, without The French Dispatch or a key film. These figures of journalists are there to be, each one, the author and the actor of one of the stories in the summary of the last issue of The French Dispatch since the film begins in 1975, with the death of Arthur Howitzer Jr. whose last wishes stipulate that his weekly cannot survive him.

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