Wes Anderson’s latest film, the aesthetically pleasing comedy The French Dispatch, is another star-studded affair to add to the auteur’s oeuvre. Split into three parts, the film is described by the director as a love letter to journalists – in this case, those of a fictional newspaper in a 20th-century French town (aptly called Ennui-sur-Blasé). Owen Wilson’s laid-back, easygoing character introduces viewers to the setting in a humorously matter-of-fact way, adding tidbits of insider information to help the audience settle into this new world – though it will feel familiar to Wes Anderson fans.
The first of the three anthology-style parts, “The Concrete Masterpiece”, takes place in a prison, where Benicio Del Toro’s Rosenthaler is serving time for murder. He’s also in a relationship with a prison guard (Léa Seydoux), whom he paints. These abstract works of art become extremely valuable, though nobody can understand why – in fact, nobody can understand what Rosenthaler is depicting in his paintings.
The second part, “Revisions to a Manifesto”, is inspired by the French student protests of May 68. French Dispatch journalist Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand) is reporting on the revolution when she meets the precocious Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet). She helps the self-proclaimed leader of the revolution with his manifesto.
The film concludes with “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner”, an action-packed sequence involving criminal syndicates, a kidnapping, and haute cuisine. This time, it’s food writer Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) recounting his experience of dining with The Commissaire of the Ennui police force on a televised interview.
This lively slice of fiction is an immersive viewing experience full of humor, thoroughly developed settings, and a motley of intriguing characters. Here are some of the best quotes from this latest foray into Wes Anderson’s cinematic world.
- Narrator: It began as a holiday. Arthur Howitzer Jr., a college freshman, eager to escape a bright future on the Great Plains, convinced his father, proprietor of the Liberty Kansas Evening Sun, to fund his transatlantic passage as an educational opportunity to learn the family business through the production of a series of travelogue columns to be published for local readers in the Sunday Picnic magazine … Over the next ten years, he assembled a team of the best expatriate journalists of his time and transformed Picnic into The French Dispatch, a factual weekly report on … world politics, the arts – high and low – fashion, fancy cuisine, fine drink … He brought the world to Kansas.
- Narrator: One reporter [was] known as the best living writer in quality of sentences per minute. One who never completed a single article but haunted the halls cheerily for three decades. One privately blind writer who wrote keenly through the eyes of others.
- Narrator: His most repeated literary advice …
Arthur Howitzer Jr.: Just try to make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose.
- Alumna: Berensen’s article: ‘The Concrete Masterpiece’.
Proofreader: Three dangling participles, two split infinitives, and nine spelling errors in the first sentence alone.
Arthur Howitzer Jr.: Some of those are intentional.
- Alumna: The Krementz story, ‘Revisions to a Manifesto’.
Story editor: We asked for 2500 words, and she came in at 14,000 plus footnotes, endnotes, a glossary, and two epilogues.
Arthur Howitzer Jr.: It’s one of her best.
- Alumna: Sazerac?
Legal advisor: Impossible to fact-check. He changes all the names and only writes about hobos, pimps, and junkies.
Arthur Howizter Jr.: These are his people.
- Mitch-Mitch: A message from the foreman: one hour to press.
Arthur Howitzer Jr.: You’re fired.
Arthur Howitzer Jr.: Don’t cry in my office.
- Herbsaint Sazerac: All great beauties withhold their deepest secrets.
- Arthur Howitzer Jr.: ‘Rats, vermin, gigolos, streetwalkers.’ You don’t think it’s almost too seedy this time?
Herbsaint Sazerac: No, I don’t.
Arthur Howitzer Jr.: For decent people?
Herbsaint Sazerac: It’s supposed to be charming.
- Julian Cadazio: All artists sell their work. It’s what makes you an artist, selling it. If you don’t wish to sell it, don’t paint it.
- Julian Cadazio: I can only offer a deposit of eighty-three centimes, one candied chestnut, and four cigarettes. Everything I have at this present moment in time.
- Julian Cadazio: Modern art. Our specialty. Starting now.
Uncle Joe: I don’t get it.
Julian Cadazio: Of course, you don’t.
Uncle Joe: Am I too old?
Julian Cadazio: Of course you are.
Uncle Nick: Why is this [painting] good?
Julian Cadazio: It isn’t good. Wrong idea.
Uncle Nick: That’s no answer.
Julian Cadazio: My point. You see the girl in it?
Uncle Nick: No.
Julian Cadazio: Trust me. She’s there.
- Julian Cadazio: We all know this man is a murderer. Totally guilty of first-degree homicide, any way you slice it. That’s a given. However, he’s also that rare, once-in-a-generation guy that you hear about but never get the chance to discover for yourself: an artistic genius. Surely, there ought to be a double standard for this sort of predicament.
- Lucinda Krementz: [Zeffirelli] is not an invincible comet, speeding on its guided arc toward the outer reaches of the galaxy in cosmic space-time. Rather, he is a boy who will die young. He will drown on this planet in the steady current of the deep, dirty, magnificent river that flows night and day through the veins and arteries of his own ancient city. His parents will receive a telephone call at midnight, dress briskly, mechanically, and hold hands in the silent taxi as they go to identify the body of their cold son. His likeness, mass-produced and shrink-wrap packaged, will be sold like bubblegum to the hero-inspired who hope to see themselves like this. The touching narcissism of the young.
- Lt. Nescaffier: They had a flavor. The toxic salts in the radishes – they had a flavor. Something unfamiliar to me. Like a bitter, moldy, peppery, spicy, oily kind of earth. I’ve never tasted that taste in my life. Not entirely pleasant, extremely poisonous, but still, a new flavor. That’s a rare thing in my age.
- Roebuck Wright: People may or may not be threatened by your anger, your hatred, your pride. But love the wrong way, and you will find yourself in great jeopardy.
Lt. Nescaffier: I’m a foreigner, you know.
Roebuck Wright: This city is full of us, isn’t it? I’m one myself.
Lt. Nescaffier: Seeking something missing, missing something left behind.
Roebuck Wright: Maybe with good luck, we’ll find what eluded us in the places we once called home.