Writer/director Wes Anderson has always had an extremely particular style of film making. The pastel color palettes, the hypnotically symmetrical shot compositions, the slow motion walk ups accompanied by ’70s pop songs, the idiosyncratic character driven tales of fucked up families front lined by unbelievably shitty father figures have been combined (and refined) over the course of nine films into an unmistakable aesthetic cocktail forever his own. There is no other film maker alive that could (or should, for that matter) attempt to out twee a Wes Anderson film.
Now imagine my surprise when I hit play on the teaser trailer for his latest film, THE FRENCH DISPATCH, a couple days ago. Loading up any sort of promotional material on a Wes Anderson project, you are automatically expecting a set amount of criteria to be met (title cards, dry humor, an exterior shot of a building that may or may not be a diorama miniature, Jason Schwartzman, etc.). That’s just how strong the Wes Anderson brand was before I pressed play.
Two minutes and twenty six seconds later was a whole different story.
There’s an artist coming into their own in private, there’s an artist coming into their own in public, there’s an artist coming into their own in front of a massive audience but then there’s that rare moment when an artist evolves past being a personal brand, past a consistently specific group of aesthetic choices and becomes a pure emotional reaction. Stubbing my toe is one kind of hurt, burning myself on the stove is another. Watching that teaser for THE FRENCH DISPATCH elicited such a unique feeling of anticipation, excitement, hunger and dread in my soul that I’ve never felt before primarily because it felt like I was watching one of my all time favorite film makers becoming the purest form of themselves. Like somehow everything this film maker from Texas has ever done was all leading up to this story about an American expatriate running a magazine in France affiliated with an American newspaper and the three concurrent stories (each with their own title cards!) that they are working on for the latest issue. It’s an organized anthology in one film. It has the rebellious firebrand of a father figure running the show (the extended W.A.U. regular Bill Murray) atop a murderer’s row of an ensemble cast of familiars (Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, among others) and new faces (Benicio del Toro, Elisabeth Moss, OH MY GAWD IS THAT TIMOTHEE CHALAMET’S MUSIC!). It has interspersed sections of black and white (which includes a gun fight no less) in each of the three plot lines that involve an painter in jail, a teenage rebellion and a hot new food sensation found in the least likely of places.
My pupils expanded so much my eyes went all black. My blood pressure (already in the high side, I’m sure) went through the roof. It was a blast of serotonin straight to the bloodstream. Full disclosure, I haven’t indulged in extra curricular pharmaceuticals in more than a couple decades but every time I watch that teaser my brain is chopping up all the visual and auditory stimuli into the fattest of rails. Needless to say, I’m eagerly anticipating this film.
With his body of work already very divisive in nature, I can’t even imagine what a person who isn’t a fan of his filmography is thinking after watching this (is it like getting your intelligence and tastes insulted in a vintage handmade doll house while a Kinks song plays in the background?)
Regardless, that’s their problem not mine.
I still have to figure out how to deal with these shakes until the big bag drops July 24, 2020.
Image by Google / Blusterhouse Illustration
Jericho Vilar is an illustrator currently based in Santa Ana, CA. He writes stories and disappoints people.