The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch ★★★★

There’s a pillow shot at the end of the second article, in which Frances McDormand sits at her typewriter, on the far left of the frame, her back to the camera, writing. Bill Murray knocks on the door, then sticks his head into the room; McDormand gestures at the stack of papers sitting on a chair near him (the assignment he’s been waiting for) then turns and continues to type. Murray picks up the papers, scans the first one, pauses, and sits down to read. The gap between them on the frame is massive, but they’re connected by the writing, and by the author/editor relationship. The shot lasts maybe fifteen seconds. That’s it.

It’s a lovely shot demonstrating the leap from brain to paper, and the inherent grief of needing to let a piece of writing go in order for others to be able to read it. You have to close yourself off from your own writing, like a tree closing itself off from its own leaves in autumn. I always fall desperately in love with whatever I’m writing about while I’m writing; I identified with McDormand’s character in that way. I also identified with her steeling herself against her finished work, and her turning toward her typewriter and a new topic with it.

Murray’s understated pause between picking up the stack of papers and sitting down to read it is a recognition of the love McDormand’s character pours into her work. She might not have maintained journalistic integrity—she fell in love with the subject of her piece, after all—but she poured herself into that article because she loved her subjects enough to believe in them. In turn, he respects her work and the love she poured into it; it’s worth the pause, the action of sitting down, the full attention—which is to say, a reciprocating love for the topic she cared enough to write about, and subsequently let go.

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