The French Dispatch – Blu-ray Review

The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson has an overtly unique way of delivering a screenplay that captures the audience’s attention and interest. However, there’s a difference between liking his films and keeping the viewer’s interest. After all, his films are an acquired taste. Nevertheless, there’s one constant that you’ll find in every one of his films: a large eccentric cast. With The French Dispatch, Anderson uses his broad, compelling characters to pay tribute to his favorite magazine, The New Yorker. 

It’s just unfortunate that The French Dispatch is an anthology film instead of a narrative one. The trouble with these films is that they’re typically uninvolving and almost aggressively sluggish if not done right. While Anderson’s signature sense of imagination is in it, the four chapters don’t fit together to make a whole. It is like a jigsaw puzzle with some pieces missing. At the same time, the movie also moves at a consistently rapid pace, which makes it feel like we’re rushing to a conclusion that never comes. Thus, you don’t connect with the characters as you typically would as some of Anderson’s other flicks. Connecting with these eccentric characters is where most of the fun and charm of his film lies.

Also, it doesn’t help that the film feels as pretentious as the magazine it’s paying tribute to. Of course, one could argue that all of Wes Anderson’s movies are for the artsy and pretentious moviegoing audience. However, there are some in his filmography that is quite good. Once again, this goes back to the need of connecting with characters through a single-story narrative. No charm means nothing to mask the air of pretentiousness in his films.

Overall, The French Dispatch is a self-indulging piece of cinema. Yet, Wes Anderson is spot-on with his loving tribute to The New Yorker. Both the film and magazine caters to a certain kind of audience, and that audience is seemingly the only people who would enjoy this film.

Movie Rating: 2.5/5 atoms

The French Dispatch - Benicio Del Toro and Léa Seydoux

Video

The French Dispatch hits Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-AVC with a 2.35:1, 1.85:1, and 1.37:1 aspect ratio (this is a Wes Anderson flick after all). In a film where the movie has a mix of colored and black-and-white scenes, the video has a spectacular contrast where the whites glisten, and the blacks are inky. The shadows are a lighter shade of black, yet they’re the darkest of grays. When it comes to the grays in the black-and-white sequences, they seem a bit more diverse—increasing the depth, dimension, and textures in the picture.

Although most of the movie isn’t in color, Wes Anderson’s signature pastel palette is still on full display during all the color scenes. As per usual, the colors come through vibrantly. The picture is also super clear and reveals the subtle degrees of fine details and textures. The fine grain provides a perfect overlay to the film. Not to mention, it also accentuates the retro look of the film.

Video Rating: 5/5 atoms

The French Dispatch - Timothée Chalamet and Lyna Khoudri

Audio

The French Dispatch hits Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Although the Blu-ray disc states that the audio mix is a 5.1 DTS-HD track, the experience doesn’t sound like it at all. Whether or not this is intentional to fit with the retro tone of the film is unknown. Thus, the sound effects and atmospherics are distinct, but unfortunately, they mostly blend in with the front channels and don’t fill up the soundstage. There are moments where the audio mix sounds dynamic, but those moments are few and far between. Of course, since this is a dialogue-heavy flick, there’s a heavy focus on the vocal clarity in the center channel. Nevertheless, The French Dispatch is not an action-packed film, so the front-loaded experience is not a big deal.

Audio Rating: 4/5 atoms

The French Dispatch - Hippolyte Giradot, Stephen Park, Jeffrey Wright, and Mathieu Amalric

Special Features

Unfortunately, The French Dispatch doesn’t have any bonus features in this Blu-ray release.

Special Features Rating: n/a


Overall, The French Dispatch is the kind of self-indulgent arthouse film that only a niche audience can enjoy. Those of you who are Wes Anderson fans may want to lower their expectations with this one. At least, the video presentation can display his imaginative qualities at the highest level. Unfortunately, the audio mix isn’t as immersive as it should be.

Overall Rating: 4/5 atoms

The French Dispatch is now available in stores on Blu-ray.

This Blu-ray was reviewed using a retail/advance copy/unit provided by Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

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