The French Dispatch (2021)


The French Dispatch (2021)

A love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional twentieth century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in "The French Dispatch Magazine".
IMDb   N/A
Metacritic   82 %
TheMovieDb    7.3 /10
FilmAffinity   6.6 /10
Release Date2021-10-21
Runtime1h 43mins
GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
Content RatingR (R)
CompanyAmerican Empirical Pictures, Indian Paintbrush, Studio Babelsberg
CountryGermany, USA
LanguageEnglish, French

The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun is a 2021 anthology film written, directed, and produced by Wes Anderson from a story he conceived with Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness, and Jason Schwartzman. The film stars an ensemble cast, featuring 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. Its plot follows three different storylines as the French foreign bureau of the fictional Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun newspaper creates its final issue.

Additional cast members in The French Dispatch include Liev Schreiber, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, Christoph Waltz, and Anjelica Huston. The project was first mentioned in August 2018 as an untitled musical set after World War II. That December, the film was officially announced, with Anderson calling it a "love letter to journalists." Filming took place between November 2018 and March 2019, with cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman, in the city of Angoulême, France. During post-production, editing was completed by Andrew Weisblum and the musical score was composed by Alexandre Desplat.

Following a delay from 2020, The French Dispatch had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on July 12, 2021, and was theatrically released in the United States by Searchlight Pictures on October 22, 2021. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the production design and performances.


Arthur Howitzer Jr., the editor of the newspaper The French Dispatch, dies suddenly of a heart attack. According to the wishes expressed in his will, publication of the newspaper is immediately suspended following one final farewell issue, in which three articles from past editions of the paper are republished, along with an obituary.

The Cycling Reporter

Herbsaint Sazerac delivers a cycling tour of the town of Ennui, demonstrating several key areas such as the arcade, Le Sans Blague café and a pick-pocket's alleyway. He compares the past and the present of each place, demonstrating how much has changed and yet how little has changed in Ennui over time.

The Concrete Masterpiece

Moses Rosenthaler, a mentally disturbed artist serving a prison sentence for murder, paints an abstract nude portrait of Simone, a prison officer with whom he develops a burgeoning relationship. Julien Cadazio, an art dealer also serving a sentence for tax evasion, is immediately taken by the painting after seeing it in a prisoner art exhibition, and buys it despite Rosenthaler's protests. Upon his release he convinces his family of art exhibitors to put it on display, and Rosenthaler soon becomes a sensation in the art world, with his paintings in high demand. Privately, Rosenthaler struggles with inspiration, and devotes himself to a long-term project.

Three years later, Cadazio and a mob of artists, angry at the lack of any further paintings, bribe their way into the prison to force Rosenthaler to come up with something, and discover that he has painted a series of frescoes in the prison hall. Angered that the paintings are irremovable from the prison, Cadazio gets into a physical altercation with Rosenthaler, but soon comes to appreciate the paintings for what they are, and later arranges for the entire room to be airlifted out of the prison into a private museum. For his actions in halting a prison riot that breaks out during the reveal of the paintings, Rosenthaler is released on probation.

Revisions to a Manifesto

Lucinda Krementz reports on a student protest breaking out in the streets of Ennui that soon boils over into the "Chessboard Revolution." Despite her insistence on maintaining "journalistic integrity," she has a brief romance with Zeffirelli, a self-styled leader of the revolt, and secretly helps him write his manifesto and adds an appendix. Juliette, a fellow revolutionary, is unimpressed with his manifesto. After they briefly express their disagreement about its contents, Krementz tells the two to "go make love," which they do.

A few weeks later, Zeffirelli is killed attempting repairs on a small radio tower serving as a revolutionary pirate radio station, and soon a photograph of his likeness becomes symbolic of the movement.

The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner

During a television interview, Roebuck Wright recounts the story of his attending a private dinner with The Commissaire of the Ennui police force, prepared by legendary police officer-slash-chef Lt. Nescaffier. The dinner is disrupted when the Commissaire's son Gigi is kidnapped and held for ransom by criminals. After a series of interrogations, the police discover the kidnapper's hideout and begin a stakeout. Following a shootout, Gigi manages to sneak out a message in Morse code to "send the cook". Lt. Nescaffier is sent into the kidnappers' hideout, ostensibly to provide both them and Gigi with food, but secretly the food is laced with poison. The criminals all succumb to the poison, along with Lt. Nescaffier after being made to test it first, but one criminal escapes with Gigi, and leads the police on a chase. Gigi manages to escape out of the sunroof and jumps into the police car. At the French Dispatch office, Howitzer tells Wright to re-insert a segment in which a recovering Lt. Nescaffier tells Wright that the taste of the poison was unlike anything he had ever eaten before.

In an epilogue, the French Dispatch staff mourn Howitzer's death, but set to work putting together a final issue to honor his memory.


The French Dispatch office

  • Bill Murray as Arthur Howitzer Jr., the editor of the French Dispatch, based on Harold Ross, the co-founder of The New Yorker
  • Owen Wilson as Herbsaint Sazerac, a travel writer and staff-member of the French Dispatch, based on Joseph Mitchell, a writer for The New Yorker
  • Elisabeth Moss as Alumna, a copy editor of the French Dispatch staff
  • Jason Schwartzman as Hermes Jones, a cartoonist and member of the French Dispatch staff
  • Fisher Stevens as Story Editor
  • Griffin Dunne as Legal Advisor
  • Wally Wolodarsky as Cheery Writer
  • Anjelica Bette Fellini as Proofreader
  • Anjelica Huston as The Narrator
  • Bruno Delbonnel as Tip-Top, a French pop singer Jarvis Cocker as the voice of Tip-Top
  • Jarvis Cocker as the voice of Tip-Top

The Concrete Masterpiece

  • Tilda Swinton as J.K.L. Berensen, a writer and staff-member of the French Dispatch
  • Benicio del Toro as Moses Rosenthaler, an incarcerated artist Tony Revolori as young Moses Rosenthaler
  • Tony Revolori as young Moses Rosenthaler
  • Adrien Brody as Julien Cadazio, an art dealer, based on Lord Duveen
  • Léa Seydoux as Simone, a prison guard and Rosenthaler's muse
  • Lois Smith as Upshur "Maw" Clampette, an art collector
  • Henry Winkler as Uncle Joe, an uncle and business partner to Cadazio
  • Bob Balaban as Uncle Nick, an uncle and business partner to Cadazio
  • Denis Menochet as a prison guard
  • Larry Pine as Chief Magistrate

Revisions to a Manifesto

  • Frances McDormand as Lucinda Krementz, a journalist profiling the student revolutionaries
  • Timothée Chalamet as Zeffirelli, a student revolutionary; boyfriend of Juliette
  • Lyna Khoudri as Juliette, a student revolutionary; girlfriend of Zeffirelli
  • Alex Lawther as Morisot, a student revolutionary
  • Mohamed Belhadjine as Mitch-Mitch, a student revolutionary
  • Nicolas Avinée as Vittel, a student revolutionary
  • Lily Taleb as Smart Girl, a student revolutionary
  • Toheeb Jimoh as Cadet 1
  • Rupert Friend as Drill-Sergeant
  • Cécile de France as Mrs. B
  • Guillaume Gallienne as Mr. B
  • Christoph Waltz as Paul Duval, an art collector
  • Morgane Polanski as Girlfriend
  • Pablo Pauly as Waiter

The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner

  • Jeffrey Wright as Roebuck Wright, a food journalist based on an amalgamation of James Baldwin and A. J. Liebling.
  • Mathieu Amalric as The Commissaire, a policeman with a kidnapped son
  • Stephen Park as Lt. Nescaffier, a chef and police officer who solves a kidnapping
  • Winston Ait Hellal as Gigi, the Commissaire's kidnapped son.
  • Liev Schreiber as Talk Show Host
  • Edward Norton as The Chauffeur, a kidnapper
  • Willem Dafoe as Albert the Abacus, a prisoner and underworld accountant
  • Saoirse Ronan as Principal Showgirl, a member of the kidnapping gang
  • Hippolyte Girardot as Chou-fleur
  • Félix Moati as Head Caterer
  • Benjamin Lavernhe as Toothpaste Spokesman
  • Stéphane Bak as Communications Specialist
  • Damien Bonnard as a policeman



The film has been described as "a love letter to journalists set at an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city", centering on four stories. It brings to life a collection of tales published in the eponymous The French Dispatch, based in the fictional French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé (literally Boredom-on-Blasé). The film is inspired by Anderson's love of The New Yorker, and some characters and events in the film are based on real-life equivalents from the magazine. One of the three stories centers on the May 68 student occupation protests, inspired by Mavis Gallant's two-part article "The Events in May: A Paris Notebook". Another story, featuring Adrien Brody's character of Julien Cadazio, is based on "The Days of Duveen", a six-part feature in The New Yorker on art dealer Lord Duveen.

When speaking to French publication Charente Libre in April 2019, Anderson said: "The story is not easy to explain, American journalist based in France creates his magazine. It is more a portrait of this man, of this journalist who fights to write what he wants to write. It's not a movie about freedom of the press, but when you talk about reporters you also talk about what's going on in the real world."

Development and casting

In August 2018, it was reported Wes Anderson would write and direct an untitled musical film set in France, post World War II. In November 2018, it was announced Jeremy Dawson would produce the film, with Tilda Swinton and Mathieu Amalric starring in the film. Dawson also confirmed the film is not a musical. Additionally, Natalie Portman, Brad Pitt, and Léa Seydoux were rumored for roles in the film. In December 2018, it was announced Anderson would write and direct the film, with Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Benicio del Toro, and Jeffrey Wright; Seydoux was confirmed to star in the film alongside Swinton and Amalric, with Steven Rales producing under his Indian Paintbrush banner and Fox Searchlight Pictures distributing. Timothée Chalamet's role was written with him in mind.

Later that month, Lois Smith and Saoirse Ronan joined the cast. In January 2019, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Henry Winkler, Willem Dafoe, Bob Balaban, Steve Park, Denis Ménochet, Lyna Khoudri, Alex Lawther, Vincent Macaigne, Vincent Lacoste, Félix Moati, Benjamin Lavernhe, Guillaume Gallienne, and Cécile de France were cast. Robert D. Yeoman served as the film's cinematographer. In February 2019, it was announced Wally Wolodarsky, Fisher Stevens, Griffin Dunne, and Jason Schwartzman had joined the cast of the film. In April 2019, Christoph Waltz, Rupert Friend, and Elisabeth Moss were cast.

Initially, Kate Winslet was also part of the cast, but had to exit the project to prepare for her next role in Ammonite.


For the film's musical score, Wes Anderson teamed up with his long-term collaborators Alexandre Desplat and Randall Poster. Desplat enlisted pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet to draw inspiration from composers Erik Satie and Thelonious Monk and play instruments including the harp, the timpani, the bassoon and the tuba. Recording took place remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film's soundtrack album was released on CD and digitally on October 22, 2021 by ABKCO Records with a vinyl release planned for early 2022. The film's soundtrack album's one and only song, titled "Obituary", was released on September 14, 2021. The film's musical score was given an earlier separate release.

Principal photography

Principal photography began in November 2018, in the city of Angoulême (South-West France) and wrapped in March 2019. Murray and Ronan, who have small roles in the film, recorded their scenes over the course of two days.


The French Dispatch: Original Score

The French Dispatch: Original Score
Soundtrack album by
Alexandre Desplat
ReleasedMay 21, 2021
ProducerWes Anderson, Randall Poster
Alexandre Desplat chronology
The Midnight Sky (Music from the Netflix Film)
The French Dispatch: Original Score

Track listing

2."Simone, Naked, Cell Block J. Hobby Room"2:54
3."Moses Rosenthaler"2:29
4."Mouthwash de Menthe"1:56
5."Cadazio Uncles and Nephew Gallery"1:56
6."The Berensen Lectures at the Clampette Collection"1:51
7."Police Cooking"1:49
8."The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner"5:10
9."Kidnappers Lair"2:01
10."A Multi-Pronged Battle Plan"1:37
11."Blackbird Pie"0:53
12."Commandos, Guerillas, Snipers, Climbers and the Jeroboam"0:52
13."Animated Car Chase"1:52
14."Lt. Nescaffier (Seeking Something Missing...)"1:55

The French Dispatch: Original Soundtrack

The French Dispatch: Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
various artists
ReleasedOctober 22, 2021
ProducerWes Anderson, Randall Poster
Singles from The French Dispatch: Original Soundtrack
  1. "Obituary"
    Released: September 14, 2021

Track listing

1."Obituary"Alexandre Desplat3:30
2."After You've Gone" (from Sadie McKee)Gene Austin with Candy and Coco1:07
3."Simone, Naked, Cell Block J. Hobby Room"Desplat2:54
4."Fiasco"Gus Viseur2:58
5."Moses Rosenthaler"Desplat2:29
6."I've Seen That Face Before (Libertango)"Grace Jones4:30
7."Mouthwash de Menthe"Desplat1:56
8."Sonata for Mandolin and Guitar A-Dur, K. 331 Andante Grazioso con Variation VI. Variation 5 – Adagio"Boris Björn Bagger and Detlef Tewes3:34
9."Cadazio Uncles and Nephew Gallery"Desplat1:56
10."Inseguimento al Taxi (The Chase)" (from Scent of Mystery)Mario Nascimbene2:40
11."The Berensen Lectures at the Clampette Collection"Desplat1:51
12."L'ultima volta" (from I malamondo )Ennio Morricone2:34
13."Tu m'as trop menti"Chantal Goya1:47
14."J'en déduis que je t'aime"Charles Aznavour3:05
15."Fugue No. 2 in C minor (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, BWV 871)"The Swingle Singers1:19
16."Adagio" (from Comptes à rebours )Georges Delerue3:13
17."Police Cooking"Desplat1:49
18."The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner"Desplat5:10
19."Kidnappers Lair"Desplat2:01
20."A Multi-Pronged Battle Plan"Desplat1:37
21."Blackbird Pie"Desplat0:53
22."Commandos, Guerillas, Snipers, Climbers and the Jeroboam"Desplat0:52
23."Animated Car Chase"Desplat1:52
24."Lt. Nescaffier (Seeking Something Missing...)"Desplat1:56
25."Aline"Jarvis Cocker3:32


Premiere and theatrical release

In September 2019, Searchlight Pictures acquired distribution rights to the film. It was set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 12, 2020, and get a wide release on July 24, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was cancelled and the film was pulled from the schedule on April 3, 2020. The film was rescheduled for release on October 16, 2020, before being pulled from the schedule again on July 23, 2020.

The French Dispatch had its world premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. The film was screened at film festivals in Busan, South Korea, the Hamptons, London, Mill Valley, Montclair, New York, Twin Cities, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Zürich. There was a surprise screening at Telluride. It was released in limited theaters on October 22, 2021, followed by the wide expansion of October 29, 2021.


Box office

As of November 3, 2021, The French Dispatch has grossed $5.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $7.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $12.9 million.

In the film's limited opening weekend, it grossed $1.3 million from 52 theaters, for a per-venue average of $25,000, the best of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film expanded to 788 theaters the following weekend and grossed $2.75 million.

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 74 percent of 228 reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.10/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "A loving ode to the spirit of journalism, The French Dispatch will be most enjoyed by fans of Wes Anderson's meticulously arranged aesthetic." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100, based on 56 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter praised the "hand-crafted visual delights and eccentric performances" and wrote: "While The French Dispatch might seem like an anthology of vignettes without a strong overarching theme, every moment is graced by Anderson's love for the written word and the oddball characters who dedicate their professional lives to it." Writing for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw said: "It might not be at the very zenith of what he can achieve but for sheer moment-by-moment pleasure, and for laughs, this is a treat."

Awards and nominations

2021Audience AwardCity of Donostia Audience AwardWes AndersonNominated
2021Golden Frog AwardMain CompetitionRobert D. Yeoman (cinematographer)
Wes Anderson (director)
2021Palme d'Or AwardWes AndersonNominated
2021Midseason AwardMost Anticipated Film for the Rest of 2021The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening SunNominated