Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
Original Title: The French Dispatch of The Liberty Kansas Evening Sun
USA/Germany, 2021. American Empirical Pictures, Indian Paintbrush, Studio Babelsberg. Story by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness, Jason Schwartzman, Screenplay by Wes Anderson. Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman. Produced by Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales. Music by Alexandre Desplat. Production Design by Adam Stockhausen. Costume Design by Milena Canonero. Film Editing by Andrew Weisblum.
Another trip into the imagination of Wes Anderson, whose films combine the aesthetic charm of children’s picture books with an adult attitude towards sex and relationships for an overall whiff of whimsy that, while it has remained enjoyable over the years, hasn’t really gone anywhere new in two decades. No longer feeling the need to heal the pain of fraught father-son relationships that gave depth to his earliest works (from Rushmore to Fantastic Mr. Fox, particularly), Anderson has shown himself to still have the desire to craft new delicacies despite no longer being caught up in his daddy issues, and in this case has delivered another skillfully amusing yet remarkably unimportant film that purports to pay tribute to journalism but, in having not even the slightest verisimilitude to the experiences (real or emotional) of journalists, is really just another tribute to his talent for framing and production design.
The Liberty Kansas Evening Sun has had an office in the cheekily named French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé (actually Angoulême) ever since the son of the newspaper’s editor thought up the idea as a temporary project and turned it into something permanent; the editor of this New Yorker-style periodical (played by Bill Murray) stipulated in his will that the magazine would cease publication with his death and, having now keeled over in his office and expired, we are left to contemplate the magazine’s final issue. Beginning with a quick tour of Ennui hosted by Owen Wilson, in which Anderson lets us know how often he was watched all of Jacques Tati’s films, we then go into the Arts Section where ***Tilda Swinton reports on an imprisoned madman (***Benicio Del Toro) who turns the arts world on its head with his visually provocative paintings of his jail gardienne (Léa Seydoux). The politics section has Frances McDormand report on a May ’68-esque student uprising shot in the spirit of Nouvelle Vague where, thanks to Anderson’s sugar-sweet quirkiness, revolution is expressed through a game of chess and in which the reporter has a delightful affair with the leader of the revolt, played by a marvelously coiffed Timothée Chalamet. The last and weakest of the stories is the Food Column, in which an excellent Jeffrey Wright tells the tale of a kidnapping solved by a world-class chef, followed by a quick obituary of Murray’s character to close off of the experience.
Every bit of this film is a pleasant reverie, there’s never a moment that you can call boring and fans of Anderson’s won’t mind watching him play his greatest hits, but viewers are sent home with little more than the feeling of having had a good meal at a French restaurant, overwhelmed by content, comfortably sated and ready to expel it from our bodies and move on to something else.
Cannes Film Festival: In Competition