The French Dispatch Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

It all started with holidays. Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray), a freshman, convinced his father, owner of Liberty Kansas Evening Sun, to pay him a flight across the Atlantic to France to gain experience in the family publishing business.

Arthur settled in the small town of Annouis-sur-Blaise and founded the weekly publication The French Herald, which initially introduced the people of Kansas to life in France, and by the end of Arthur’s life, this publication subscribed to more than half a million readers in fifty countries.

When Arthur died, following his will, the journal was closed, the editors were dissolved, and the authors received generous severance pay. After Arthur’s death, the final edition of the French Herald was released: with an obituary, a prologue and three long reads by the best authors of the publication: reporter Erbsen Sazerak, art journalist JK Al Berensen, political journalist Lucinda Kremenz and reporter Royback Wright.

Prologue. “Reporter on a Bicycle”

Reporter Erbsen Sazerac (Owen Wilson) takes readers on a bike ride through the town of Annouy-sur-Blaze, during which he shows how the town has changed over time.

Novella “Reinforced Concrete Masterpiece”

Art journalist JK Al Berensen (Tilda Swinton) gives a lecture at an art gallery in which she tells the story of artist Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio del Toro), a psychopath serving time in Annouy-sur-Blaise prison for murder. Prison guard Simone (Lea Seydoux) becomes the artist’s muse and model. Rosenthaler’s work was seen by the art dealer Julien Cadazio (Adrian Brody), who was serving a short term in the same prison for tax evasion: he was delighted with the work, bought it to the great displeasure of Moses and, after leaving prison, began to persuade his two uncles to promote Rosenthaler’s paintings because, according to Julien, they will be in great demand.

Novella “Amendments to the Manifesto”

Political journalist and reporter Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand) talks about the student protest that broke out in Annouis-sur-Blaise, which eventually resulted in the so-called “chess revolution”. The self-proclaimed leader of the protest was a certain Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet), a chess student with tousled hair and an eternal cigarette in the corner of his mouth. Despite her “journalistic neutrality”, Madame Kremenz starts a relationship with Zeffirelli, which is terribly disliked by the active student Juliette (Lina Kudri). Lucinda helps Zeffirelli write the manifesto.

Novel “Private canteen of the police commissioner”

Reporter Royback Wright (Jeffrey Wright) on a talk show with host (Lev Schreiber) talks about his attendance at a dinner with police commissioner (Mathieu Amalric) Annouy-sur-Blaze. Dinner is very special because the dishes are prepared for him by the legendary chef Nescafier (Steve Pak). During dinner, the commissioner’s son, Gigi, is kidnapped. And Royback is present when the police first find out exactly where the boy is being held, and then the commissioner sends Nescafie to the criminals to provide Gigi with food, and the commissioner also promises the kidnappers that Nescafie will feed them all. The criminals agree to accept the cook, who brings food poisoned with poison.

Obituary

Arthur Howitzer Jr. has died, the staff mourns him and set to work on the final edition of the publication, which should honor the memory of the publisher.

***

Director Wes Anderson announced the film as a kind of “love letter” to old-school journalists and, above all, journalists and essayists of The New Yorker weekly, which once published such authors as Truman Capote and Vladimir Nabokov.

However, despite the fact that the prototype of Arthur Howitzer Jr. was Harold Ross, one of the founders of The New Yorker, and despite the fact that the French Herald uses quite recognizable style and fonts of this weekly, Wes Anderson, of course, did not make a film about The New Yorker.

He dedicated it to the publication and its journalists – yes, but the film itself is the stories that the director wanted to tell, and they are told in his very recognizable and completely original style. However, formally, two of the three main short stories were based on real publications from The New Yorker: a series of articles about the art dealer Lord Duveen (the short story “Reinforced Concrete Masterpiece”) and an article about student protests in France in May 1968, about which in the weekly there was a publication “Events in May: Paris Notebook”.

Nevertheless, the director simply took these articles as a basis, and, as is his nature, told the stories exactly as he wanted to tell them. There is also a distinct irony in the picture that such a literary giant with half a million subscribers as the French Herald is an appendix to some small, out-of-the-way Kansas publication.

On the script for this picture, Anderson worked with his longtime collaborators Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola and Hugo Guinness (Hugo had previously worked with Anderson on the script for The Grand Budapest Hotel).

Prior to this film, the director did not make films consisting of different short stories – on the contrary, his films usually told complete complete stories. Here, apparently, he decided to give himself more creative freedom, and various short stories were staged in various visual and staging styles.

The prologue is a bike ride by Owen Wilson (he and Wes Anderson have known each other since their student days, Wilson, as a screenwriter, worked on the director’s four films and starred in eight films) through the fictional town of Annui-sur-Blasé (by the way, the name Ennui-sur-Blasé translates approximately like Boredom-on-Apathy) – it is purely contemplative, and this is the most perfect visual delight that the director knows how to bring the audience to: like a theatrical scenery with a huge amount of the smallest interesting details, Anderson’s traditional pastel colors and perfectionist accuracy of each frame. Wes Anderson is reminiscent of another director, the Swede Roy Andersson, who shot, for example, the film You, the Living, by the thoroughness of building each frame.

The short story “Reinforced Concrete Story” is filmed in a completely different style. The story of the artist is told by an art journalist (who, by the way, has a real prototype, as I read), in which it is very difficult to recognize Tilda Swinton (she had previously played in two Anderson films and took part in the voice acting of his animated film “Isle of Dogs”) – bright and even flashy colors, which are suddenly replaced by a black and white palette of the story of a crazy artist who found his muse in a prison guard. And just for a few seconds in this story, colors suddenly appear when the director needs to show how Rosenthaler’s paintings actually looked.

The novel “Amendments to the Manifesto” is clearly a reference to the French New Wave, to Jean-Luc Godard and Bernardo Bertolucci: it is also made mainly in black and white (and seventy percent is played in French with English subtitles) with direct quotes from films of the new wave (Wes Anderson said in an interview that he reviewed about three dozen French films of that time), but it is still done in a purely Anderson style and has several deliberately theatrical color inserts.

The third short story “The Police Commissioner’s Private Dining Room” is a talk show itself in bright colors, but again the black and white palette in the story that Royback Wright tells about, and the scene of the police chase is completely made in the animated style of comics about the adventures of Tintin by the Belgian artist – self-taught Hergé (Georges Prosper Remy). And this animation insert is also done with great art.

Well, the finale, the obituary – pastel colors, bright and memorable shots, farewell to the publisher, farewell to the “French Messenger”.

Wes Anderson has long won the right to stage his paintings as he sees fit, regardless of the opinion of the mass audience. He is loved by critics – and just rightly so, because directors with such an original manner can be counted on the fingers – he easily finds funding for his fairly low-budget films, which, surprisingly, often collect excellent box office (at the Grand Budapest Hotel “” KKU – as much as 7.5 (about 3 in the world – the film both paid off and made good money), “Kingdom of the Full Moon” KKU – 4.2), and excellent actors consider it an honor to star in his films for a penny, and many of them are content with very episodic roles.

And he made this film exactly as he saw fit. This is a kind of a certain experiment – he had never shot in black and white before, and here is a black and white half of the film, the film also consists of short stories quite different in style – but this, of course, is a Wes Anderson film, this is a statement by Wes Anderson, it’s a well recognizable Wes Anderson style and I really enjoyed this film.

But not everyone will like it. There are critics who reproach Anderson for being too carried away by the form at the expense of the content and that in this film many of the largest American and European actors are given very small roles, there are spectators for whom this is generally everything – a kind of “boredom on apathy”, because It’s not clear why this was removed.

But Bublik and I, I repeat, really liked it. We love Wes Anderson’s visual style – it’s truly a masterpiece because you can see how much work there is behind it. We really liked the first short story – it has a lot of meanings about the essence of contemporary art, about the essence of abstract art and about the essence of the work of art dealers. And, by the way, Mr. Rosenthaler’s paintings really impressed us, and we would buy them for our home collection, where at the moment there are no others besides Carlson’s painting “A Very Lonely Rooster”, but we hope that the collection will still be replenished.

The second novella in the style of the French new wave is also great, and there is a great Timothée Chalamet (we know that many critics and viewers do not like him, but Bublik and I, oddly enough, are quite supportive of him) and a very good heroine Lina Kudry. The wonderful Frances McDormand, unfortunately, had almost nothing to play there, but she still played her role one hundred percent.

Well, we liked the third short story: first of all, Jeffrey Wright, who for us, after the role of Valentine Narkiss in The Underground Empire, is a powerful and interesting actor, and here he also performed wonderfully, well, it’s all very well staged – from dinner at commissioner to animation with a police chase.

It was very cool, it was somewhat unexpected, Wes Anderson never disappointed us, but quite the contrary, but we understand that not everyone will like the picture. However, just the audience reviews, which are usually negative for such difficult films, just pleased us. The audience (not all, but many) liked it. And it’s great! Because the films of such directors need to be watched. This is such a piece of work. Extremely original and original.

French Herald. Supplement to the newspaper “Liberty. Kansas Evening Sun / The French Dispatch review

Director: Wes Anderson Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Bill Murray, Elisabeth Moss, Anjelica Huston, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Léa Seydoux, Mathieu Amalric, Steve Park, Bob Balaban Christoph Waltz, Leo Schreiber, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Lina Curly

Budget: $25 million, Global gross: $46 million
Tragicomedy, USA-Germany, 2021, 107 min.

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