The French dispatch: journey to the end of Ennui (sur-Blasé)

A mess of international actors who evolve in superb settings, but the whole struggles to hide the weaknesses of the scenario. An item that cannot be bought with millions of dollars …

Lorqu’Arthur Howitzer Jr (Bill Murray), editor-in-chief of news magazine The French Dispatch, weekend supplement from Kansas Evening Sun, breaks his pipe at the start of the film, four of his most prestigious reporters take up their most brilliant pens, to remember their best reports, complete a final tribute issue and write his obituary. The result is a film with sketches, where the American director explores the mythologies across the Atlantic and of an eternal France, by sending his comedians-reporters to survey “Ennui-sur-Blasé”, in real Angoulême transformed and even magnified by sets superb (which gave work to a lot of people around here and that’s even why the rooms are full this week).

First, there is the story of the lowlands and the titis of the suburbs, where we meet a psychopathic painter (Benicio Del Toro), whose muse is none other than his prison guard (Léa Seydoux). Then comes the post-adolescent romance against the backdrop of the May-68 manifesto, between the student Zeffirelli (Thimothée Chalamet) and the young Juliette (Lyna Khoudri), in an abracadabrantesque schoolboy conflict. Finally, the story of an incredible friendship born in a dining room between a police superintendent (Mathieu Amalric) and a fine cook, Nescaffier (Steve Park), who saves his son from a mafia gang, in the prize of a chase in the steep streets of Ennui-sur-Blasé – sequence shot in animation, by far the best moment of the film.

From this crazy and unbridled mess, we come out frankly dubious. Certainly, The French Dispatch is not a failed film in itself, it is rather a film too well framed, too well licked, too well manufactured. Taking up the usual codes of line framing, the happy alternation (sometimes) between color and black and white, effects of symmetry and obsession with detail, Wes Anderson appears, in this last opus, best production designer. as screenwriter. Because we must admit: we can not repress severe and frequent yawning – no offense to Angoumoisins, many in the room to have come to try to recognize who a friend appearing, who a set seen during the shooting which lasted ten months fall and winter 2018-2019, and who were very enthusiastic during the screening. Spend more than $ 27 million (the largest shooting budget for an American film on French territory) in the production of The French Disptach However, as we can read on the posters of the bus shelters in the good old town of Angoulême, “The best film of Wes Anderson”. Except to be satisfied with leafing through a catalog of chic images and turns of phrase tied up like advertising slogans. If the intention is laudable – to dive into the golden legend of a more or less fantasized journalism where the quality of the story and the romantic inventiveness took precedence over the real chain of events – all in a dreamed French city rather than reconstituted, nonetheless remains the lingering impression of boredom in Ennui. You will find us very jaded, and that’s not wrong, but in Angoulême we have talked so much about “Film by the American, you know, Wes Anderson, and well it turns in the city with a thousand extras and all that the region counts intermittent of the spectacle”, that we end up wondering if, in fine, with The French Disptach, the dandy Anderson would not go off the road by getting stuck in the background …

F.S.

We liked: the sets in transformed Angoulême; references to the cinema of Jacques Tati; high-angle and low-angle shots; the second sketch on Mai-68 with Thimothée Chalamet and Lyna Khoudri; the car chase through the streets of the city in an animated film; the soundtrack of the film (with the excellent cover ofAline by Jarvis Cocker, and… Chantal Goya).

We liked less: the lengths in the psychopath painter’s first sketch; the sluggish scenario; the too high speed of the shots the first five minutes with a voice over difficult to follow in original version; the thoroughness of each composition of the shots which ends up tiring as if she wanted to hide something; yawn crows watching the time …

The French Disptach, by Wes Anderson. 1h43. With Thimothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Léa Seydoux, Bille Murray, Benicio Del Toro, Matthieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Frances Mcdormand …

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