On “The French Dispatch”, Wes Anderson unpacks his toolbox

“The French Dispatch”, Searchlight Pictures

No matter how ugly and violent and drab the world may be, Ican always count on the pleasingly structured beauty of a Wes Anderson film. Wes Anderson films are a peephole into a living dollhouse. They are a painting on the wall inside a living dollhouse. They are a music box, tiny shiny parts moving like clockwork. Pastel colors and symmetrical frames and every now and then a lewd little joke reminding you that this is, in fact, an R-rated film. Anderson is, arguably, one of the most recognizable auteurs in modern cinema.

But to reduce a Wes Anderson film to merely its aesthetic would be a disservice. Just as signature as his precise camera work and direction are his characters — his aching, yearning, deeply lonely characters. The dollhouse’s inhabitants do have a soul after all — as well as a quirky, almost absurd, and crystal-sharp sense of humor.

“The French Dispatch”, Searchlight Pictures

Anderson certainly isn’t my favorite filmmaker (and if I’m honest I prefer his earlier less austere, more character-driven work, such as “The Royal Tenenbaums” and even “Fantastic Mr. Fox”), but to watch his frames moving from one to the next is a delightful experience of modern cinema itself.

Going into this film, I had a hazy expectation of what I was about to experience, drawing from previous Wes Anderson outings — beyond the precise aesthetics, the quirky humor, the same undercurrent of melancholy. And yet this film took me by the hand and brought me entirely different places than what I would’ve expected, whether or not I enjoyed the entire journey. Indubitably, Wes Anderson has surprised me again. Unbelievably, he has more than a few hidden tricks up his sleeve.

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