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The French Dispatch (Blu-ray Review)

While the tentpoles and franchises are our given multimedia events of every filmgoing year, Wes Anderson is certainly one for the indies or cinephile market. For myself, he’s a clear my schedule and get to his latest film immediately kind of director. And in 2021, it felt like I was loaded with directors fitting that bill. The French Dispatch was a film delayed from last year, though proved well worth the wait. It came out in the very fabled and totally loaded month of October and seemed to not do his typically gangbusters per theater numbers. Perhaps his is of the audience not quite comfortable returning to the big screens yet. Nonetheless, its now on home video to check out as the Blu-ray was released on December 28th. Unfortunately there is jack squat in terms of bonus features, though the movie IS strong enough to warrant purchase on its own. You can order yourself a copy by using the paid Amazon Associates link below.

Film

Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch brings to life a collection of stories from the final issue of an American magazine published in the fictional 20th-century French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé. With an all-star cast that includes Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, this vibrant film is a funny, moving celebration of journalism.

A tale as can only be told by Wes Anderson. His latest is very fittingly to his fold, culminating in a lot of the craft he’s displayed in his recent films while also introducing a few new nuances to the fold. Like clockwork, he manages his style and craft into new ways that serve his cannon and this film’s identity simultaneously. The narrative choice by which to share this film is quite excellent and not only is something you feel only Wes Anderson could come up with, but is clever and fresh for a film as well.

The French Dispatch performs itself in an anthology style overall, but the way they put that together is very neat. It plays as a read through of the final issue of the magazine, the aptly titled The French Dispatch, that was published before the death of its editor. Each focuses on both a journalist and their story. Each story carries its own flavor and aesthetic, opening into the lives of both the writers, their subjects and the intertwining of both.

Those characters are filled out by a game cast that knows the assignment but also feels like they have the understanding and freedom from their director to have fun and explore their performance space. While Anderson has one of the greatest knacks for framing in modern times, his actors still find the ability to play with interaction, vocal inflection, facial communication and calculated movements. Of them, the standout is that of Jeffrey Wright. Always delivering no matter the film or television show, this is most unique use of the man’s talents and feels like one of his very best performances in years if not may a decade or further.

It seems damn near impossible for Wes Anderson to make a film below four stars for me and The French Dispatch keeps that momentum going in one of the most impressive director catalogs that is continuing to be written. His latest film matches his powers with that of his stars as he makes what feels like a greatest hits album of his more recent skillset while adding a couple new tracks to keep it fresh and potentially peak into the future. It proves to be one of the best and most unique films of 2021.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Encoded as, framing of the film differentiates)

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The French Dispatch, as with any Wes Anderson film, looks glorious and absolutely lovely in his debut on Blu-ray. Sadly without a 4K UHD disc, its still manages a strongly defined and colored image. Any paused moment in the film could easily be propped up on as a decoration for a wall in your home. This is as strong as image as you could hope for on the dated format.

Depth:  Depth of field is quite strong here, benefitting both the framing devices in the film as well as the scale. Movements are natural and smooth with no issues regarding motion distortions.

Black Levels: Though Wes Anderson’s use of color is a key element of his films, the guy proves here that he’s a standout with black and white as well. These sequences are deeply well saturated and have an inky beauty to them, hanging on to well defined information and texture. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: There’s a lot of black and white here, but the colors are absolutely gorgeous when it does show. It has the sort of dollhouse aesthetic to it with them being very strong and a worn sort of vivid if that makes any sense. The palette here is bold and the saturation is pretty top notch.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are cleanly visible from any reasonable distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English AD 2.0 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: The French Dispatch features a 5.1 track that feels plenty fitting for the film. Honestly, a stereo track with subwoofer accompaniment feels good for an Anderson film at its most minimal. However, this one does do some fun stuff with the extra channels which showcasing good balance, depth and layering all throughout the film.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: This features some good bumps from the subwoofer when needed, mostly playing it up in the action oriented finale. Musical beats hit nicely with bass and drum and gunfire, engines, crashes and accompaniment sounds like doors shutting all hit on point from where you would be hoping.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This is a pretty nicely realized track. Rear channels features some nice bits of unique value while also helping build a 360 degree ambiance for experience. The sound travel is plenty effective and accurate as well. The finale serves as your best and most playful moment in the film for which to really test this mix.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, ever-present and feeling a lived in part of any given environment (inside or out) seen in the film.

Extras

The French Dispatch comes with a redeemable digital copy of the film.

Summary

The French Dispatch is a mighty fine film, of the year’s best and deliver’s the Wes Anderson goods. Despite delivering the goods in performance, this Blu-ray release severely lacks in extras by not having any. The film itself warrants a purchase (albeit at a discounted price). However, as always when it comes to the Wes Anderson catalog that is no different with The French Dispatch, wait of the Criterion Collection release of it that is surely to follow in a few years.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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