Review: ‘The French Dispatch’ Posts a Love Letter to the Literary Magazine

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It sometimes helps, when writing film reviews, to let readers know from the start what sort of person you are, what kind of biases you bring to the table.

Often it won’t, or shouldn’t matter, but sometimes it feels too screamingly foregrounded to ignore. So it is for me in regards to The French Dispatch.

According to the film’s lore, Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray) created the French Dispatch while abroad. Arthur started the Sunday supplement for the Kansas paper his father owned, being written, edited, and assembled from Ennui (yes, I know), France.

Arthur fell so in love with the project and the place, he never returned home. However, Arthur has died and his will calls for the disillusion of the magazine in a precise manner. Arthur, it seems, has more than a touch of Anderson to him.

Dispatch, the film, thus concerns the story of the final issue. However, it is not largely about the making of the last issue, but rather a review of the stories contained within. It is, essentially, an anthology picture divided into four separate sections surrounded by organizing bookends.

Throughout each section, Arthur flits through, an almost spectral figure in his own magazine even while he walked amongst the living.

I’ll explain that The French Dispatch is a fragile thing, the kind of film that feels as though it might break if you watch it too often or too closely.

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