Complete A-Z list

French Dispatch, The


Stars: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Henry Winkler, Lois Smith, Christoph Waltz, Bob Balaban, Liev Schreiber, Cecile de France, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Stephen Park, Jason Schwartzman, Fisher Stevens, Jarvis Cocker

Director: Wes Anderson

The Marx Bros meet Jean-Luc Godard meets avant-garde cinema, 2021-style. The extensive use of black and white and a 4 x 3 screen ratio in Wes Anderson's very quirky new offering cannot, you would think, be entirely coincidental.

A newspaper in Kansas (originally in the 1920s) conceives the idea of a cultural section set in the fictional French town of Ennui-sur-Blase - all of the names here are plays on familiar factual or fictional people and things: the chef from episode 3 for example is Lt Nescaffier.

We meet Murray as the section's editor with an aphorism for every occasion, then segue into a trio of stories - for the last edition of the magazine after Murray has died - about three of the denizens of Ennui, after Wilson has given us an introduction to the place.

The middle section, with McDormand as a veteran scribe among youthful revolutionaries, is the least successful. The first gives us Del Toro as a mad artist whose incomprehensible asylum murals are hailed as works of art, while the last centres on the kidnap of a businessman's son and the efforts to trace and apprehend the culprits. The whole thing is the cinematic equivalent of hurtling through a kaleidoscopic bazaar as imagined by Salvador Dali.

Not for everyone then, but if your tastes run to a whole cartoon sequence straight out of Dick Tracy, or even Bond girl Seydoux in various naked poses, you'll find something for you here.

Of course it's supremely silly, but also stylish to a fault as it gradually unveils its box of tricks.

David Quinlan

USA/Germany 2020. UK Distributor: Disney (Searchlight). Colour by Company 3/black & white.
108 minutes. Widescreen & 4 x 3. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 28 Oct 2021