The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch ★★★★

A film about depth beyond the surface. Anderson's films almost always appear in two dimensions to us, so what is apparent throughout is how often the film seems to push further in or out within the frame. Layered surfaces are literally pulled back to reveal something in and out. Temporal strategies are employed throughout to contextualize art in ways otherwise inexpressible. An aside of (violent?) sexual rapture requires moving closer in to the audience to break the spell of presentation. ​The use of deep focus frames (evocative of Welles's European work in particular) put faces in the context of horror disguised as whimsey (The most violent depiction of the police state just happens to come through a James Baldwin stand in whose only honest remark on the similarities of the US and Foreign lives shared by another POC is considered a passé remark by him but beloved by his white editor). Often a staid frame is suddenly lit up through bullets and tear gas. The pictorial here often becomes dimensional—what irony that in its literal animated sequence, it is the lack of a three dimension plane that leads to the villain's demise.

The shallowness of art and its context has always peppered under the surface of Anderson's films but now becomes the text of all three stories. Not that art is shallow, but its existence within history—capitalism, revolution, and the state as told by each story—often blur its potential for appreciation. A great meal cannot but be sidelined to a smaller frame by the greater stakes of police violence. And thus Anderson holds color for moments when beauty might actually break through (the lights coloring a painting, a getaway by motorcycle, a pair of blue eyes). "Why write about food?" / "Wasn't this supposed to be about a chef?" once again demonstrates how Anderson more and more pushes the aesthetics of his films as his form of politics. What might be dismissed as a whimsical doll house of the past becomes a vehicle to reassess what it might mean to live in the chaotic present of history.

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