“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.”
Whilst there has always been a literary chic aesthetic to Wes Anderson’s films, The French Dispatch is an ode to the art of long-form journalism — rather than being divided into chapters, this is really a collection of short films masquerading as articles. The fictional French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé (literally “boredom on apathy”) is fittingly named, and even the colour palette eschews the bold saturation one expects from Anderson; yet within this disaffected community, the writers seek out — and perhaps manifest — absurdly colourful tales. The quality is distinctly uneven, Anderson seeming to have little to say with the content of the stories so much as their loquacious delivery. The most creative is also the most entertaining, a food review that morphs into an unpredictable heist. Although that earns the film a strong closing, it cannot resolve the disconnected narrative of a vapidly kitsch tale of student protest or a bizarrely aggressive travelogue. Fans of Wes Anderson will find plenty of details to enjoy, together with the de rigueur stellar ensemble cast, but The French Dispatch does not rank amongst his strongest work.
“This is really awful. Maybe the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Chief Cliff Robertson
Not quite as mangled a mess as those corpses, The Dead Don’t Die is still a deeply disappointing waste of talent. Given his original take on the vampire genre with the exquisite Only Lovers Left Alive, I was excited by the prospect of Jim Jarmusch turning his talents to a zombie movie with an exceptional ensemble cast led by Bill Murray and Adam Driver. Sadly, the best cast ever to grace a zombie movie cannot combat a flat and uninspired script with little to say. Sure, the undead are drawn to their addictions in life so we are treated to moans of “Chardonnay” and “wifi” rather than “brains” but the social satire is stale for a genre that was built upon it — a voiceover about consumerism seems laughably derivative three decades after George Romero popularised that parallel. There is some humour to be found in the small town residents’ laid back attitudes leading to less panic than one might expect; however that same lack of energy does little to aid the viewing experience. Driver manages to inject a little charm as does Selena Gomez, but nothing here is memorable once the heads and credits roll.
“Shift your hunting ground for a few years and everyone forgets how the law works. Well, let me remind you. A man-cub becomes man, and man is forbidden!”
Although commonly labelled live-action, that is not entirely accurate since Neel Sethi is the only actor who appears onscreen, with CGI filling the space around him. A wobbly opening scene concerned me but generally the CGI is excellent, with breathtaking vibrant jungle vistas when the camera pulls back to capture characters in silhouette. The A-list voice talent can be a little distracting, although Bill Murray is an inspired choice for Baloo. Similarly, retaining just a few of the Disney songs is a stranger choice than excising them entirely. Sethi’s Mowgli is believably curious, isolated and angry, Favreau drawing out an impressive performance against empty green screens. It is not a classic, but the original was not Disney at its height either and this stands comfortably alongside it.