Film directors have their styles, just as actors have their signature moves. For Wes Anderson, symmetrical shots, vintage color schemes and full-circle stories are the keys of his style. “The French Dispatch,” Anderson’s 2021 film, is another example of the most blatantly Wes Anderson-esque movie.
“The French Dispatch” is both the title of this movie and the special last edition of the newspaper, the fictional “Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun.” It is centered around four articles and their writers that contribute to the foreign bureau in the fictional French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé.
I want to acknowledge that my favorite thing about this movie was not nerding out over Wes Anderson. (Of his films, I have only seen one other than “The French Dispatch.”) Yes, Wes Anderson is a film genius, and he checked off all the boxes he usually attempts in his films (in a good way). My favorite thing about “The French Dispatch” is how relatable it was to my actual life.
As a writer and the Editor in Chief of a newspaper (this one), I was drawn in with the central theme of highlighting journalism’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, from its lengthy feature stories to its archetype editor character. I also caught myself laughing at how the movie poked fun at the aspects of journalism as well. It reminded me not to take myself too seriously and to have fun with the profession I hope to get into.
One of these aspects that Anderson and the film poke fun at is when editor Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) gives advice to his writers. His only piece of advice is “Just try to make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose.”
The introduction to the film is ironically the end. It’s the obituary of the magazine’s editor, Arthur Howitzer Jr., who dies and causes the magazine to cease publishing. I found this setup of the plot entertaining and touching. We are introduced to the editor of the magazine, told that he is dead, and see his process of editing the final issue of the magazine through the rest of the movie.
The movie then outlines the final issue of the magazine with five segments: the Obituary, The Cycling Reporter, The Concrete Masterpiece, Revisions to a Manifesto and The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner. The movie ends with the writers and other staff coming together to write the obituary that was introduced at the beginning.
This storytelling is characteristic of Wes Anderson. His style of filmmaking and directing presents the plot of the movie as an authentic story, with elements reminiscent of a novel or play, that often comes full circle, as with this film. Wes Anderson is phenomenal at storytelling, which makes him one of the best stylistic cinema directors.
Another aspect of Anderson’s style is that of his blocking, use of color and symmetry. His color schemes are always especially vintage with pale and quite rustic undertones. But in “The French Dispatch,” Anderson’s use of color with black and white in certain scenes made parts of his film stand out. For example, Moses Rosenthaler’s musings were revealed to us in color, when the rest of the visualization of the feature story was in black and white.
Along with other stylistic and casting choices (for example, Timothee Chalamet as an angsty college student), I suppose this was his purpose: to make sense of a fictional city and fictional magazine while taking certain aspects seriously, or at least to be noteworthy.