The French Dispatch

A letter from the UK Premiere of The French Dispatch


The French Dispatch UK Premiere

Sunday 10th October 2021

I arrived at the Southbank in central London on an oddly hot October day with the unique smell of the Southbank surrounding me – a strange mix of the Thames, perfume, coffee and roasted nuts. As I walked down the embankment, regret immediately hit as I wondered why I had chosen to wear a Harris Tweed jacket, but as beads of sweat rolled off my brow, it was too late to debate this choice. It was 5.00pm when I arrived at The Royal Festival Hall; I am always early! Why am I always so early? I loitered for at least thirty minutes before heading in, lighting more than one cigarette.

At 5.30 pm, after going for what I call a safety pee, I entered the sprawling hall and looked for my seat. D27, the end of the row. It was now 5.50 pm, and the hall was filling up fast; however, the two people sitting next to me seemed oblivious to my existence as they sipped on their drinks and ignored everything else around them. Surely a polite “hello” wouldn’t have gone amiss. Meanwhile, behind me, a group of young people chatted. One complained they hadn’t eaten all day, while another tucked into a large, decidedly limp-looking baguette. Five minutes before the film, the poor ravenous student ran out desperately seeking a sandwich and only made it back as the clock neared six, a baguette and beer in hand.

The evening’s events began with a trendy and cool-looking Tricia Tuttle introducing Jarvis Cocker and his new music video. Tricia gently swayed to the song before a small group of the cast joined the stage. This mini-ensemble included Alex Lawther and Tony Revolori; however, no sooner had they arrived than they were ushered off without a single word spoken. A bit rude if you ask me, especially when Javis Cocker’s new song had taken up more than a few valuable minutes. Meanwhile, the once ravenous student behind me appeared less than impressed with his baguette, commenting loud enough for me to hear that the “bread to filling ratio was disappointing.” I couldn’t help but feel the Javis to cast ratio had been more disappointing than the limp baguette!

But as Wes Anderson once again whisked me away into his magical world of satirical dry humour and luscious visuals, everything that came before was forgotten. I was at one with the film as I sipped on a now tepid bottle of water. Mid-way through, the ‘disappointed’ baguette-wielding student realised that a pint of beer may not have been the best option as he rushed to the toilet. But, not even the desperate need for a pee could have torn me away from Anderson’s ode to The New Yorker, The New Republic and The Atlantic; every scene was exquisite, the filmmaking equivalent of a large tub of indulgent ice cream.

As the film ended, I found myself longing for more, but as I left the Royal Festival Hall, a new feeling swept over me, one of sadness and nostalgia at the lost art of the magazine in a digital world. As I walked back down the embankment, I felt the urge to find a newsagent that still stocked The New Yorker, and my love for Wes Anderson only further increased.

Neil Baker

BFI London Film Festival presents The French Dispatch; in cinemas on 22nd October.

Rating: 5 out of 5.



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