Anderson’s stars make an entrance - by bus

Swinton, Chalamet and co aboard for ovation at Cannes premiere

by Richard Mowe

The gang’s all here: From left, Bill Murray, Festival supremo Thierry Frémaux, Hippolyte Girardot, Adrien Brody, Timothée Chalamet, Wes Anderson, Lyna Khoudri, Tilda Swinton and Alexandre Desplat
The gang’s all here: From left, Bill Murray, Festival supremo Thierry Frémaux, Hippolyte Girardot, Adrien Brody, Timothée Chalamet, Wes Anderson, Lyna Khoudri, Tilda Swinton and Alexandre Desplat Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
It was one of the most star-spangled nights so far of the Cannes Film Festival when the bumper cast of Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch turned out in force for the film's world premiere.

They created Cannes history by being delivered to the red carpet in front of the Palais des Festivals in a gold-painted bus rather than the countless black chauffeured limos that usually deposit the stars. Apparently it was Anderson’s idea that they should all arrive together and the eye-catching bus was the obvious solution.

Benicio Del Toro and Tilda Swinton on the red carpet for The French Dispatch
Benicio Del Toro and Tilda Swinton on the red carpet for The French Dispatch Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
The throng included Anderson, Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton (shimmering in pink and with no less five films in the festival), Timothée Chalamet (resplendent in silver suit), Lyna Khoudri, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and composer Alexandre Desplat. Absent, as expected, from the fray was French star Léa Seydoux who was isolating in Paris after a positive Covid test.

The reception at the end of the screening was tumultuous even by Cannes’s over-reaching standards with an ovation that went on for nine minutes.

The film which was mainly shot in the town of Angoulême in south-west France is described as a love letter to journalism although the media in attendance at the festival could not help but find it strange that it was decided to break with tradition and not hold a press conference and the cast eschewed any interviews.

The French Dispatch has a had long wait to have its premiere. It was slated as part of the programme for last year’s cancelled edition while the release has been delayed several times although it is now scheduled to open in the UK and US on 22 October.

Timothée Chalamet and Adrien Brody at the Cannes premiere of The French Dispatch
Timothée Chalamet and Adrien Brody at the Cannes premiere of The French Dispatch Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
The critics who may be accused of a certain journalistic bias towards a pastiche of their own have been upbeat: the trade magazine Variety said: “Apart from Ernst Lubitsch or Jacques Tati, it’s hard to imagine another director who has put this level of effort into crafting a comedy, where every costume, prop and casting choice has been made with such a reverential sense of absurdity.”

The Hollywood Reporter described it as “an extravagant love letter” and continued: “Bursting at the seams with hand-crafted visual delights and eccentric performances from a stacked ensemble entirely attuned to the writer-director’s signature wavelength, this is the film equivalent of a short story collection.”

Bill Murray on filming The French Dispatch with Wes Anderson in Angoulême: 'The Cognac was great!'
Bill Murray on filming The French Dispatch with Wes Anderson in Angoulême: 'The Cognac was great!' Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
The British publication Screen suggested that the director’s tenth feature “is among his most visually remarkable, each frame filled with meticulously crafted small details that add up to a dense, inviting cinematic jewel box.” The Guardian’s critic Peter Bradshaw, who is never a pushover, wrote: “Amazing visuals, lots of laughs and an A-list cast – including Bill Murray – make Anderson’s tribute to the New Yorker a real treat.”

Swinton who plays an art critic and is one of the raconteurs in the film, said on the red carpet that “all directors are unique but Anderson is more unique than most and it was great he invited us all along for the party". She dismissed any suggestion that the cinema experience being under threat from the pandemic. “Forget talk about cinema being dead or dying … it never went away,” she said defiantly. Chamalet who is having his first Cannes experience and seems determined to make the most of it, said it had been “wonderful to work with one of the greatest American filmmakers.” Murray who plays the magazine’s editor and publisher, was more measured, noting that he appreciated living and working in the historical town of Angoulême. “It was a beautiful place … and the Cognac was great.”

The French Dispatch is released in the UK, Ireland and the US on 22 October with a special screening at the New York Film Festival on 24 September. The French release is slated for 27 October.

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