After a long time, the movie world is in Wes Anderson fever again as The French Dispatch has debuted. The film’s plot revolves around the foreign bureau of an American journalist, as expected, it promises to be the most “Wesandersonal” film of all time.
As usual, Wes Anderson’s films are distinguished by their carefully designed and tastefully furnished sets. Thus, again, serious efforts have been made to reconstruct the well-known Wes Anderson world. As we have seen with previous films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel and the Moonrise Kingdom, the set of The French Dispatch is made unique by the unspoiled charm of the location, in this case, the French town of Angoulême. Furthermore, the café scenes were shot at 180 The Strand Studios in London.
The film’s art director Kevin Timon Hill explained how a London studio managed to recreate Anderson’s fictional world. According to him, the set design embodies a scarce world while taking place in a functioning café. To create a sense of scarcity, they have resorted to odd solutions, such as raising the height of the linoleum edging.
The art director, who last worked with Wes on The Isle of Dogs, says that the live-action nature of the film dictated a completely different pace to what was seen in the stop-frame animated film. The task here was more to keep the same attention to detail—the perfection of the technical background and sets—in the live-action situation that was a feature of the Island of Dogs.
The office of The French Dispatch is actually an architectural illusion. Although a very real scooter drives by on the street below, and a grizzled editor can be seen in one of its third-floor windows, the lettering fixed to the roof of the building is little more than a meter wide. In addition to the real-life town of Angoulême, the set designers’ work in this film is truly marvelous. According to the head of the set design company, Simon Weisse, “even this could have been done in CGI” by director Wes, but he wanted models. It is probably this instinctive insistence that puts these films in a different category. They respect the added value of the quality made by human hands.
The expected success of The French Dispatch will therefore not only be due to the presence of A-list actors such as Bill Murray, Elisabeth Moss, Timothée Chalamet, Frances McDormand and Léa Seydoux but more to the atmosphere of Wes Anderson’s familiar sets and the vision of the crew that will attract the attention of the screen in November.
The die-hard Anderson fans now can storm not only the small French town of Angoulême but also see the original sets of the café built in the creative studio 180 The Strand in the heart of London.