|11/11/2021 4:15:00 PM|
There were just a handful of moviegoers at the Spotlight Theatre in Venice for the Sunday showing of The French Dispatch (R). Originally scheduled for a May 2020 release, it’s the tenth movie from writer/director Wes Anderson and his first live-action feature since 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.
There is no mistaking a Wes Anderson film for the work of any other filmmaker. His movies are meticulously crafted, almost staged, with arresting visuals, choreographed action and an evocative mix of intense color, black and white and animated imagery. He’s worked with the same cinematographer since his first film Bottle Rocket. He’s just as loyal to his actors. His regulars Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody are all here along with several dozen others. Alexandre Desplat, who won an Oscar for scoring The Grand Budapest Hotel, is also back.
When publisher Arthur Horowitz, Jr. (Bill Murray) dies, the French Dispatch, a New Yorker-esque magazine based in Ennui sur-Blase, France, will also cease publication. The movie is presented as a series of three vignettes, stories the Dispatch writers filed for the final issue.
Tilda Swinton, who for some reason just has to wear fake teeth in Anderson’s movies, is the art critic who writes about a murderer/artist (Benicio Del Toro), who is inspired to paint by a prison guard (Lea Seydoux from No Time to Die). His paintings attract the attention of a gallery owner (Adrien Brody) and his uncles, (Yes, that’s Henry Winkler). Then we meet a very monotone Frances McDormand, who plays a no-nonsense writer covering student revolutionaries, in what I felt was the least successful of the stories. In the final piece, Jeffrey Wright (also from No Time to Die) is a food writer who gets caught up in a kidnapping and shoot-out while writing about a prison chef.
I enjoy Anderson’s unique and slightly quirky aesthetic, but his films can be overwhelming. There is so much to take in visually and there are so many players that actors like Christoph Waltz and Saoirse Ronan barely get any screen time. The dialogue is so artfully crafted and dense, the actors can come off as stilted. The exceptions are Murray and Owen Wilson, two of the most chill actors working today. Still, with all the derivative drivel out there, I’ll take Anderson’s unique look at the world any day.
The French Dispatch : 3.5 out of five stars
I love it when a movie introduces me to a real-life character or story I knew nothing about, hence The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (PG-13). I mean how could I resist this description, “The true story of eccentric British artist Louis Wain whose playful, psychedelic pictures transformed the public’s perception of cats forever.” And it stars Benedict Cumberbatch AND is free on Amazon Prime. Sign me up.
While there are plenty of cute cats and kittens, this movie is no fairy tale. Louis lives with his mother and five sisters, none of whom are in a hurry to get married. He’s a bit odd and unhappy until he meets a woman ten years older than he is and from the wrong social circle, which in the early 1900s England, does not go over well. When his wife (Claire Foy) becomes ill, Louis, an illustrator, starts drawing pictures of their cat to cheer her up. Soon, his cat drawings are everywhere and people start thinking, “Hey, maybe cats aren’t evil and it wouldn’t be the worst thing to have one or two in my home.”
But there’s that family thing again. Wain’s mother and sisters are counting on the only man in the family to support them. Sadly, while his paintings are selling, Wain is really bad with money and he is experiencing symptoms of mental illness. The more he loses touch with reality, the wilder his cat drawings get.
Cumberbatch is terrific as the brilliant and tortured artist with a fondness for felines. He instantly makes you care about his character. You want Louis to be happy but you know that’s not going to happen. The movie glosses over Wain’s later life, but it was pretty grim. There is a lovely scene toward the end of the movie that ties back to an earlier scene that may or may not have happened, but made me happy. And can I just say that Cumberbatch sports some of the best old-age makeup I’ve seen in years. The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, is a fascinating true story with a stellar performance and adorable cats. It’s worth checking out.
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain: 4 out of five stars