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Starring: Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Adrien Brody, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Léa Seydoux, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Steve Park, Mathieu Amalric, Liev Schreiber, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, Anjelica Huston
OUR RATING: ★★★½
Comedy drama written and directed by Wes Anderson. The French Dispatch (2021) is a love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city centering on three storylines that bring to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch” magazine.
Our Favortie Quotes:'People may or may not be mildly threatened by your anger, your hatred, your pride. But love the wrong way, and you will find yourself in great jeopardy.' - Roebuck Wright (The French Dispatch) Click To Tweet
Narrator: It began as a holiday. Arthur Howitzer, Jr., college freshman, eager to escape a bright future on the Great Plains, convinced his father, proprietor of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun, to fund his transatlantic passage as an educational opportunity to learn the family business through the production of a series of travelogue columns to be published for local readers in the Sunday Picnic magazine.
Narrator: Over the next ten years, he assembled a team of the best expatriate journalists of his time, and transformed Picnic into The French Dispatch, a factual weekly report on the subjects of world politics, the arts, high and low, fashion, fancy cuisine, fine drink, and diverse stories of human interests set in faraway quartiers. He brought the world to Kansas.
Narrator: His writers line the spines of every good American library. Berensen, Sazerac, Krementz, Roebuck Wright. One reporter known as the best living writer in quality of sentences per minute. One who never completed a single article, but haunted the halls cheerily for three decades. One privately blind writer who wrote keenly through the eyes of others.
Narrator: His most repeated literary advice, perhaps apocryphal, was simply this…
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: Just try to make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose.
Narrator: In his will, he stipulated that immediately upon his death, quote…
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: The presses will be dismantled and liquefied. The editorial offices will be vacated and sold. The staff will be paid ample bonuses and released from their contracts, and the publication of the magazine will permanently cease.
Narrator: Thus, the publisher’s obituary will also serve as that of this publication. All home delivery readers will, of course, be refunded, pro rata for the unfulfilled portion of their subscriptions. His epitaph will be taken verbatim from the stenciled shingle fixed above the door of his inner office.
Alumna: Berensen’s article. The Concrete Masterpiece.
Proofreader: Three dangling participles, two split infinitives, and nine spelling errors in the first sentence alone.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: Some of those are intentional.
Alumna: The Krementz story, Revisions to a Manifesto.
Story Editor: We asked for twenty-five hundred words, and she came in at fourteen thousand, plus footnotes, endnotes, a glossary, and two epilogues.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: It’s one of her best.
Legal Advisor: Impossible to fact-check. He changes all the names, and only writes about hobos, pimps, and junkies.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: These are his people.
Alumna: How about Roebuck Wright?
Cheery Writer: His door’s locked, but I could hear the keys clacking.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: Don’t rush him.
Mitch-Mitch: A message from the foreman. One hour to press.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: You’re fired.
Mitch-Mitch: [upset] Really?
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: Don’t cry in my office.
[the assistant looks up to see “No Crying” written above the office door]
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: Shrink the masthead, cut some ads, and tell the foreman to buy more paper. I’m not killing anybody.
Narrator: These were his people.
“The Cycling Reporter”
Herbsaint Sazerac: All grand beauties withhold their deepest secrets.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: “Rats, vermin, gigolos, streetwalkers.” You don’t think it’s almost too seedy this time?
Herbsaint Sazerac: No, I don’t.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: For decent people?
Herbsaint Sazerac: It’s supposed to be charming.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: “Pick-pockets, dead bodies, prisons, urinals.” You don’t want to add a flower shop, or an art museum?
Herbsaint Sazerac: No, I don’t.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: A pretty place of some kind?
Herbsaint Sazerac: I hate flowers.
“The Concrete Masterpiece”
Julian Cadazio: Simone, Naked. Cell Block J. Hobby Room. I want to buy it.
Moses Rosenthaler: Why?
Julian Cadazio: Because I like it.
Moses Rosenthaler: It’s not for sale.
Julian Cadazio: Yes, it is.
Moses Rosenthaler: No, it isn’t.
Julian Cadazio: Yes, it is.
Julian Cadazio: All artists sell all their work. It’s what makes you an artist. Selling it. If you don’t wish to sell it, don’t paint it. Question is, what’s your price?
Moses Rosenthaler: Fifty cigarettes. Actually, make it seventy-five.
'All grand beauties withhold their deepest secrets.' - Herbsaint Sazerac (The French Dispatch) Click To Tweet
Julian Cadazio: [to Rosenthaler] I want to pay you two hundred and fifty thousand francs in legal French tender. Do we agree on the sale? Uh-huh. I can only offer a deposit of eighty-three centimes, one candied chestnut, and four cigarettes. Everything I have at this present moment in time. However, if you’ll accept my signatory voucher, I assure you a check for the outstanding balance will be remitted to your account within ninety days. Where do you bank? Never mind.
Julian Cadazio: [to Rosenthaler] How did you learn to do it, by the way? Paint this kind of picture. Also, who did you murder, and how crazy are you, really? I need background information so that we can do a book about you. It makes you more important.
J.K.L. Berensen: Born rich, the son of a Jewish-Mexican horse rancher, Miguel Sebastian Maria Moises de Rosenthaler trained at the Ecole des Antiquites at significant family expense. But, by the end of his youth, he had shed all the luxuries of his comfortable background and replaced them with Squalor. Hunger. Loneliness. Physical danger. Mental illness. And, of course, criminal violence.
Moses Rosenthaler: Well, I’ve been here three thousand six hundred and forty-seven days and nights. Another fourteen thousand six hundred and three to go. I drink fourteen pints of mouthwash rations per week. At that rate, I think I’m going to poison myself to death before I ever get to see the world again, which makes me feel very sad. I got to change my program. I got to go in a new direction. Anything I can do to keep my hands busy, I’m going to do. Otherwise, I think maybe it’s going to be a suicide. And that’s why I signed up for clay pottery and basket weaving.
J.K.L. Berensen: [referring to Simone] Certain women do gravitate toward incarcerated men. It’s a recognized condition. Something about the captivity of others enhances the experience of their own freedom. I assure you, it’s erotic.
J.K.L. Berensen: Simone, of course, refused all Rosenthaler’s entreaties of marriage, which, we are told, were frequent, and marvelously enthusiastic.
Julian Cadazio: Modern art. Our specialty, starting now.
Uncle Joe: I don’t get it.
Julian Cadazio: Of course you don’t.
Uncle Joe: Am I too old?
Julian Cadazio: Of course you are.
Uncle Nick: [referring to the painting] Why is this good?
Julian Cadazio: It isn’t good. Wrong idea.
Uncle Joe: That’s no answer.
Julian Cadazio: My point. You see the girl in it?
Uncle Nick: No.
Julian Cadazio: Trust me, she’s there.
Chief Magistrate: Mr. Rosenthaler, why should we put you back on the street?
Moses Rosenthaler: Because it was an accident, Your Honor. I didn’t intend to kill anybody.
Chief Magistrate: You decapitated two bartenders with a meat saw.
Moses Rosenthaler: The first bartender was an accident. The second one was self-defense.
Chief Magistrate: Well, be that as it may, what demonstration of genuine remorse, or, at the very least, regret can you offer for beheading these men?
Moses Rosenthaler: They had it coming.
Julian Cadazio: [referring to Rosenthaler] We all know this man is a murderer. Totally guilty of first-degree homicide, any way you slice it. That’s a given. However, he’s also that rare once in a generation guy that you hear about, but never get the chance to discover for yourself. An artistic genius. Surely, there ought to be a double standard for this sort of predicament. Supposedly, he’s a psychotic, by the way. That’s not his fault. Respectfully, I submit maybe we could think up some other way to punish him?
J.K.L. Berensen: Rosenthaler’s right to petition for parole was permanently revoked for the duration of his sentence.
Simone: What’s wrong with you? Go back to work.
Moses Rosenthaler: I can’t. I won’t. It’s too hard. It’s torture. I’m literally a tortured artist.
J.K.L. Berensen: The French Splatter-school Action-group. A dynamic, talented, lusty, slovenly, alcoholic, violent pack of creative savages. They inspired, and very often personally attacked each other for two decades and more.
Julian Cadazio: [to Rosenthaler] We’ve made you the most famous painter alive based on one small, scribbly, overrated picture. You’re an art school course. You’re an encyclopedia entry. Even your disciples have won and squandered multiple fortunes, yet you refuse to show us so much as a sketch, or a study for a single new piece during this entire, protracted period. How long are we meant to wait? Well, don’t answer, because we’re not asking. We already printed the invitations. We’re coming in. All of us. The collectors. The critics. Even your second rate imitators we represent who suck up to you, and smuggle you goodies, and probably turn out to be better than you are. The bribes alone are going to be outrageous, as these guards can assure you. But we’re going to pay them. So, finish it, whatever it is. The show is in two weeks.
Upshur ‘Maw’ Clampette: [reffering to Rosenthaler’s paintings] Maybe one of them restoration fellers out at the Fondazione dell’Arte Classico could figure a way to rustle them pictures loose.
Julian Cadazio: We’re in a maximum-security prison, Maw. It’s federal property. Even to begin the bureaucratic nightmare would require years of negotiation with a team of highly-paid, arrogant, obnoxious advocates. I don’t even know how you’d peel them off. It’s a fresco.
Julian Cadazio: Can you even begin to fathom the s**t-ton of money my uncles and I have squandered to get to this point of no return? Look at them! You’ve ruined us! Does it mean nothing to you?
Moses Rosenthaler: I thought you liked it.
Julian Cadazio: I think it stinks! Get out of that wheelchair! I’m going to kick your a** up and down this hobby room!
Julian Cadazio: [to Rosenthaler] Don’t growl at me, you convicted murderer. You homicidal, suicidal, psychopathic, no-talent drunk!
Julian Cadazio: [referring to Rosenthaler] We have to accept it. His need to fail is more powerful than our strongest desires to help him succeed. I give up. He’s defeated us.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: Why am I paying for a hotel room at a beach club on the North Atlantic coast?
J.K.L. Berensen: Because I had to go there to write it.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: “Breakfast, lunch, dinner, laundry, nightcap, midnight snack.” What is wrong with the desk right here in your office, courtesy of this magazine?
J.K.L. Berensen: Don’t ask me to be indiscreet about what happened between me and Moses at a seaside inn twenty years ago. We were lovers. I went back to remember.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: On my dime.
J.K.L. Berensen: Yes, please.
“Revisions to a Manifesto”
Lucinda Krementz: Take me at my word. I live by myself on purpose. I prefer relationships that end. I deliberately choose to have neither husband nor children. The two greatest deterrents to any woman’s attempt to live by and for writing.
Zeffirelli: [Krementz pulls back the shower curtains] I’m naked, Mrs. Krementz.
Lucinda Krementz: I can see that.
Zeffirelli: Why are you crying?
Lucinda Krementz: Tear gas. Also, I suppose I’m sad.
Zeffirelli: Please turn away. I feel shy about my new muscles.
Lucinda Krementz: Go tell your parents your home. They’re worried.
Zeffirelli: I’m expected back on the barricades.
Lucinda Krementz: I didn’t see any barricades.
Zeffirelli: Well, they’re still constructing them.
Lucinda Krementz: What are you writing?
Zeffirelli: A manifesto. I told them not to invite Paul, by the way. Maybe you’re sad, but you don’t seem lonely to me.
Lucinda Krementz: Exactly!
Zeffirelli: I saw you at the protest on top of a bookcase taking notes. Is there a story in us, for the people of Kansas?
Lucinda Krementz: Maybe.
Zeffirelli: Then you should study our resolutions. Or anyway, will you proof read it? My parents think you’re a good writer.
Lucinda Krementz: Give it to me.
[Zeffirelli gets out of the bathtub naked and gives her his notebook]
Lucinda Krementz: [referring to the manifesto] It’s a little damp.
Zeffirelli: Physically, or metaphorically?
Lucinda Krementz: Both. Based on the cover and the first four sentences.
Zeffirelli: Don’t criticize my manifesto.
Lucinda Krementz: Oh, you don’t want remarks?
Zeffirelli: I don’t need remarks, do I? I only asked you to proof read it because I thought you’d be even more impressed by how good it already is.
Lucinda Krementz: Let’s start with the typos.
Zeffirelli: What’s this part?
Lucinda Krementz: I added an appendix.
Zeffirelli: You’re joking.
Lucinda Krementz: No, I’m not.
Zeffirelli: You finished my manifesto without me.
Lucinda Krementz: I made it sound like you, I think. Just more clear, and more concise, a bit less poetic. Put it this way, this isn’t the first manifesto I’ve proofread.
Zeffirelli: [to Krementz] I like how ruthless you are. It’s part of your beauty, I think.
Lucinda Krementz: The kids did this. Obliterated a thousand years of Republican authority in less than a fortnight. How and why? Before it began, where did it begin?
Drill-Sergeant: In North Africa, I caught a bullet in the tail. In South America, I caught a chunk of high-explosive shrapnel in the left wing. In East Asia, I picked up a rare, microbial, infectious gut-parasite in the lower abdominal cavity, and I’ve got them all with me right now, still in my body. But I don’t regret my choice to wear this uniform. And in sixteen years, I’ll get my pension.
Morisot: I mean from when we go home until retirement age. That forty-eight year period of my life, I mean. That’s what I won’t do. I can no longer envision myself as a grown-up man in our parents world.
Zeffirelli: [to Juliette, referring to Krementz] She’s not an old maid. She’s not in love with me. She’s our friend. I’m her friend. She’s confused. She wants to help us. She’s angry. She’s a very good writer. It’s a lonely life, isn’t it?
Lucinda Krementz: Sometimes. It’s true. I should maintain journalistic neutrality, if it exists.
Lucinda Krementz: [to Zeffirelli and Juliette] Stop bickering. Go make love.
Zeffirelli: They say it’s the smells you finally don’t forget. The brain works that way.
Zeffirelli: I feel shy about my new muscles. Her large, stupid eyes watched me pee. A thousand kisses later, will she still remember the taste of my tool on the tip of her tongue? Apologies, Mrs. Krementz. I know you despise crude language.
Lucinda Krementz: Additional sentence at bottom of page completely indecipherable due to poor penmanship.
“The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner”
Talk Show Host: Someone told me you have a photographic memory. Is that true?
Roebuck Wright: That is false. I have a typographic memory. I recollect the written word with considerable accuracy and detail. In other spheres, my powers of retention are distinctly impressionistic. I’m known to my intimates as a most forgetful man.
Talk Show Host: Yet you remember every word you ever wrote.
Roebuck Wright: Monsieur Nescaffier made his name and reputation. He is fanatically celebrated among cooks, cops, and capitaines, not to mention squealers, stoolies, and snitches, as the great exemplar of the mode of cuisine known as Gastronomie Gendarmique. “Police cooking” began with the stake-out picnic, and paddy-wagon snack, but has evolved and codified into something refined, intensely nourishing, and, if executed properly, marvelously flavorful. Fundamentals, highly portable, rich in protein, eaten with the non-dominant hand only, the other being reserved for firearms and paperwork.
The Commissaire: This is my oldest friend, Chou-fleur. When I met him, he was a girlish little schoolboy with ringlets and a full set of teeth. Now, he looks like a corpse.
Roebuck Wright: The drink, a milky, purplish aperitif, ferociously fragrant, overtly medicinal, ever so faintly anesthetizing, and cooled to a glacial viscosity in a miniature version of the type of vacuum flask normally associated with campsites and schoolrooms, cast a spell, which, during the subsequent sixty second interval, was to be mortally broken.
Roebuck Wright: It was my first week in Ennui when I suffered the misfortune of being arrested in a drinking establishment on the fringes of the Flop Quarter along with a number of newly found companions.
Talk Show Host: What was the charge?
Roebuck Wright: Love. You see, people may or may not be mildly threatened by your anger, your hatred, your pride. But love the wrong way, and you will find yourself in great jeopardy. In this case, a chicken coop jail cell for six days straight.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: Read this. Give me three hundred words. I’ll pay you five hundred francs, minus the two-fifty I advanced for your bail, but I’ll re-advance that against cost of living. Bring me a first draft tomorrow morning. And however you go about it, Mr. Wright, try to make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose.
Roebuck Wright: [looking emotional] Thank you.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: No crying.
Roebuck Wright: Self-reflection is a vice best conducted in private or not at all.
Roebuck Wright: There is a particular sad beauty well known to the companionless foreigner as he walks the streets of his adopted, preferably moonlit, city. In my case, Ennui, France. I have so often shared the day’s glittering discoveries with no one at all. But always, somewhere along the avenue, or the boulevard, there was a table set for me. A cook, a waiter, a bottle, a glass, a fire. I chose this life. It is the solitary feast that has been very much like a comrade, my great comfort and fortification.
Roebuck Wright: Perhaps, you fail to grasp that I was shot at and hand-grenaded against my will. I only asked to be fed, and was, marvelously, as I described in some detail.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: Nescaffier only gets one line of dialogue.
Roebuck Wright: Well, I did cut something he told me. It made me too sad. I could stick it back in, if you like.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: What did he say?
Roebuck Wright: [we see Nescaffier told Wright that he’d cut out of his story] I admire your bravery, Lieutenant.
Nescaffier: I’m not brave. I just wasn’t in the mood to be a disappointment to everybody. I’m a foreigner, you know.
Roebuck Wright: This city is full of us, isn’t it? I’m one myself.
Nescaffier: Seeking something missing. Missing something left behind.
Roebuck Wright: Maybe with good luck, we’ll find what eluded us in the places we once called home.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: [referring to what Nescaffier had told Wright] That’s the best part of the whole thing. That’s the reason for it to be written.
Roebuck Wright: I couldn’t agree less.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.: Well, anyway, don’t cut it.
Lucinda Krementz: [as Alumna begins to cry over Howitzer’s death] No crying.
Cheery Writer: Is somebody coming to take him away?
Legal Advisor: There’s a strike at the morgue.
Roebuck Wright: Who was with him?
Hermès Jones: He was alone. Reading birthday telegrams.
Roebuck Wright: Let’s write it together.
Waiter: Write what?
All: The obituary.
Herbsaint Sazerac: [as they’re writing Howitzer’s obituary] It began as a holiday.
Hermès Jones: Is that true?
Herbsaint Sazerac: Sort of.
Roebuck Wright: What happens next?