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July 14, 2021 by · Leave a Comment 

At Cannes, it’s difficult to judge a film by the length of the standing ovation it receives. Take Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, which is competing for the Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Reporters attending a preview screening clocked the applause at nine minutes. Yet their reviews, some of which seemed virtually reverential, also seemed to conclude that the film was just too wesandersony — like a fancy meal in which the presentation trumped the taste.

Theose reviews must have come as a disappointment to Anderson, who pulled the film from release when last year’s Cannes festival, where it was scheduled to premiere, was canceled due to the pandemic. (It is due to be released in the U.S. in October.) The fact that the film received only subdued reviews is one of several circumstances that underscored its absurd content. No doubt with an eye on opening it at Cannes, Anderson set the drama in the fictional (of course) French town of of Ennui-sur-Blasé, the headquarters of “The French Dispatch”, a section of the Kansas Evening Sun‘s Sunday supplement, Liberty. While the film is divided into three unrelated short stories, each of them an assemblage of hundreds of strikingly beautiful shots, they feature enough stars and Anderson repertory members — many of them in blink-of-the-eye cameos — to cast a slew of Hollywood blockbusters. They include: Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Elizabeth Moss, Christoph Waltz, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson,  Liev Schreiber, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, plus 24 other actors.

Anderson has called the film a love letter about the days when print journalism was king and produced some of the foremost writers of the last century, and he ends the film with a tribute to many of them. Yet he refused to allow a press conference to be held at Cannes to discuss the film, and he has also refused to grant interviews about it. Journalists generally admire films about the innards of their profession, and Anderson’s decision to slam the door in their faces can only be considered, well, absurd.

All of this did not dissuade Robbie Colin, the film critic for the London Telegraph, from giving the film his top rating — five stars — and describing it as “a relentless hoot.” He called particular attention to a scene in which Benecio Del Toro, in the role of an imprisoned painter, tells a judge hearing his appeal, “It was an accident, your honor.” The judge replies: “You decapitated two bartenders with a meat saw!”