One line Bill Murray's Harold Ross-like character Arthur Howitzer Jr., editor of The French Dispatch of the Liberty Kansas Evening Sun, said a few times in Wes Anderson’s new movie. It's a line I can't help but to think about. He gently suggests to his staff, "Just make it sound like it was written that way on purpose."
It's smart, sure, but it's also familiar enough to make one wonder if this is some well-known writing advice. It's striking because it's both confident and self-deprecating. This is a lovely quip, full of insight as well as contradictions, much like Anderson's films. It's easy to wonder if it's Anderson's way of giving us a glimpse into his mind. He tells it or was once told it to help him understand his eccentric aesthetic which has lately become a problem. Wes Anderson films, for better or worse, always look, sound, and feel like Wes Anderson movies.
The reach of this magazine is much smaller than its inspirations. The Liberty Kansas Evening Sun's weekly insert, the French Dispatch, is called The French Dispatch. Kansas' real Liberty is a small town that has a population of less than 250 people in the last century, and more recently closer to 100. It is therefore quite amusing that Murray's character would finance this magazine from France (in Ennui-sur-Blase), with a team of longform writers. It's a long pursuit that will end with Murray's death. The final issue serves as the basis for the anthology film.
A "Talk of the Town"-style vignette features Owen Wilson as Herbsaint Sazerac. It describes a day in the French town's life. Another story is about Benicio Del Toro, a prisoner murderer, whose modern paintings become a sensation. The third is about Zeffirelli, a reluctant student revolutionary, and the fourth about Jeffrey Wright, a food journalist sent to profile Stephen Park, a well-known chef, who is taken into a wild kidnap and rescue and escape. It's quirky, charmingly absurd at times, and dark -- Anderson's films are that way, even though it's often forgotten in bad covers.