The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch

I liked watching this—WA’s meticulously jokey production design, committed miniature work, and polyphonous 4:3 composition are vibrating in harmony at last—but going out of your way to say nothing is the most conservative statement you could possibly make.


the Midwest has always been a bastion of Modernism, so a Kansas patroness of the avant-garde in the mid 20th century is only funny and incongruous if you’re a rube. 

Jean-Luc Godard, the most obvious inspiration for the “protest” segment and a good chunk of the rest, would be right to brush this off his shoe. The undertow of the French New Wave was the Algerian War: their Vietnam, a decade before ours, a brutish campaign to preserve brutality, a spitting choking convulsion of dying empire waged begrudgingly by working-class conscripts against freedom fighters who could never lose. Godard’s disaffected café kids, Demy’s star-crossed lovers, Resnais’ fragmented brains were all secondary casualties of that postwar war, the beginning of the end of history that Americans didn’t notice very much. SO the notion that “the children are [merely] grumpy” would be maddening if it weren’t obvious that no one really put any thought into it. 

But after that segment came the one where James Baldwin, an expatriate Communist, was beautifully and tastefully reimagined as a food writer-turned-police stenographer. The mind reels.

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