‘The French Dispatch’ shows a director at top of his craft

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The wonderful and whimsical worlds of director Wes Anderson are back in theaters with “The French Dispatch,” a perfect entry point for anyone curious to see what all the fuss is about.

Anderson is my favorite Hollywood director, and I never miss one of his new movies.

“The French Dispatch” is especially fun, an anthology of three cleverly crafted and meticulously staged stories that I think could help new fans get into the Wes Anderson groove. A cavalcade of famous actors line up and clearly enjoy putting on a show in the director’s distinct and delightful style.

“The French Dispatch” is playing in Rome and other limited theaters.

The French Dispatch is a news magazine published in the town of Ennui, France, a collection of arts, politics and culture, written by some of the greatest writers of their time. “The French Dispatch” the movie focuses on three such stories: a prison artist, a teenage rebellion and the world famous personal chef of the local police commissioner.

Each story is its own little world unto itself, and that just adds to the utter coolness of Anderson’s style. He could just tell these stories as they are. But instead, he creates this entire fictional magazine, gives it an interesting backstory (it started as a weekend piece in Kansas), and populates it with all manner of fun characters. Bill Murray as the magazine’s longtime publisher, with ink in his veins, is a hoot.

“The French Dispatch” is Anderson’s ode to The New Yorker, and the sort of work classic, romanticized journalists might do in the heyday of the printed word. The likes of Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Jeffrey Wright play the journalists, giving each character a vibrant life as they tell their news stories to the audience. Then you’ve got everyone from Benicio Del Toro to Henry Winkler popping in for smaller, but no less juicy parts.

What I love most about Wes Anderson’s films is their sense of style. It’s hard to describe, but once you see it you’ll know there is nothing else like it in Hollywood. And “The French Dispatch” is bursting at the seams with this sense of style. Everything from scenery to narration to where characters stand in a frame is so utterly unique and captivating.

Part of me knows that this style is not for everyone. But if anyone is curious to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to Wes Anderson, I think “The French Dispatch” is a nice starter film. The stories are short enough that viewers won’t get lost, and the heart, humor and cleverness is on full display with each one.

There is magic still in movies, just as their is magic still in the written word. “The French Dispatch” glorifies both.

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