The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch ★★★★½

I read a review of Amelie once that said it presented a fascist dream of France as scrubbed of any troubling social antagonism. The charming exterior was a whitewash of modern Paris for a twee cash-in. I never really agreed with that but I felt it a lot while watching The French Dispatch. Wes Anderson has become perfect at making references that are slightly off-center in a way that is both infuriating but ultimately makes me laugh. The jumble of bourgeois affectations and filmmaking techniques felt a bit like Annie Hall, but there's something similar with the later Woody Allen as well - relentless quirky self-comparisons to famous old styles. It made me want to scream at the screen a bunch of times, and to rage about how its middle class narcissism systematically avoids the ambiguous politics that informed the originals. That's too easy, though, because there is a lot of ambiguity here. Every time I thought "oh, that's so stupid" I felt like Wes was whispering "yeah, I know."

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