London Film Festival 2021: The French Dispatch

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London Film Festival 2021: La Dépêche française | Review

12 October 2021


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Wes Anderson’s French expedition premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this summer and arrives at the London Film Festival in October.

With the death of its editor (Arthur Howitzer Jr, played by Bill Murray), the eponymous French expedition magazine faces the production of its latest issue. The plot is structured as a print publication, divided into different segments such as the Art section (with Benicio del Toro as the criminally insane artistic genius Moses Rosenthaler and Léa Seydoux as the muse) and Politics (with Timothée Chalamet playing a student activist in a The graduation-esque love triangle).

As with all anthology work, some episodes work better than others. It starts off strong with Owen Wilson playing the role of tour guide and introducing the city in which the events are taking place. The latest that could be pulled is the moment a subway train passes through a tunnel, plunging it into darkness and revealing the misdeeds of rats living underground. The various narratives culminate with the artist-prison scenario: perfect nuances of humor, deception and a pinch of romance. Towards the end, the Russian nesting doll setup that appears in the Culinary section is easy to lose sight of, which is unfortunate considering the magazine itself is trying to come out with a bang.

Understandably, given that the cast is made up of Hollywood elites, some of the characters have the shorter term. It’s like throwing pearls before the pigs to have Willem Dafoe, Christoph Waltz, and Saiorse Ronan in just over a minute of screen time each. As in all of the director’s films, performances are constrained – a deliberate stylistic choice. It’s interesting to see Anderson’s newcomers like Chalamet, generally praised for the emotional depth of his acting, handle this.

The cinematography is gorgeous, as always, and locked in with pristine symmetry, even in the rare event that a portable camera is used. The shots are carefully crafted moving paintings that make up a larger part of the The French dispatchthe call.

A highly anticipated film, with the most impressive cast since Once upon a time in hollywood, is almost doomed to disappoint, with such high expectations. Fortunately, this is not really the case here, although it does not go beyond them. The French dispatch hits its mark: it’s quirky and entertaining – exactly what viewers have come to expect from Wes Anderson. Still, one can’t help but wonder if the incentive to see him would be so high if it weren’t for all the names attached.

Selina Sondermann

The French dispatch airs nationwide on 22sd October 2021.

Read more reviews and interviews from our coverage of the London Film Festival 2021 here.

For more information about the festival, visit the official BFI website here.

Watch the trailer for The French dispatch here:


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