‘The French Dispatch’: The Day New Yorker’s Pauline Kael Didn’t Like a Wes Anderson Movie

This is a story that involves two people, but suddenly becomes an anthology in which we recognize one of the most acclaimed directors today and one of the most anticipated films of the year, The French Dispatch. But first the main characters and the year in which it takes place: Wes Anderson and Pauline Kael in 1998.

Wes Anderson was less than 30 years old when he released his second feature film entitled Rushmore, starring Jason Schwartzman and written with his best friend Owen Wilson. Pauline Kael was about to turn 80 and had already retired. Anderson was not yet the iconic filmmaker while Kael was considered one of the best film reviews for his posts in the New Yorker.

Anderson sought out Pauline to see his movie. He called him on the phone, introduced himself and told him that Bill Murray was part of the cast. Between questions about the duration and the possibility of sending the tape to your home, Anderson convinced her to go to the nearest movie theater to see it on a big screen.

Wes Anderson in London in 1998 / Photo: Getty Images

Wes Anderson’s obsession with Kael

He went for her, bought her cookies and double-parked to get her off in front of the driveway (Kael had Parkinson’s). Pauline Kael, his idol, was watching Rushmore. When he finished, the film critic told him that he had not caught the idea flat out.Did the people who paid for this movie read the script?he asked.

He answered yes and was disappointed in her reaction. And it is understandable. When you get to know the person you admire the most, what you want the most is for that first meeting to be memorable. Kael was not remotely surprised by Anderson’s work; but for him, despite the experience, it was memorable in a good sense of the word.

Projection of Rushmore it represented his first meeting with the woman who gave him a guide to love and learn about cinema.His books were my guide to finding and watching the right movies and learning all about directors“. The Texan filmmaker, from his teens, read The New Yorker and paid special attention to Kael’s work.

Pauline Kael and Cannes

Director and jury of the Cannes Film Festival in 1977 with Pauline Kael / Photo: Getty Images

One more spectator

When they returned to Pauline’s house, She offered him some copies of her books and he asked her to sign one. Pauline answered yes, but that she would have to wait because Parkinson’s made it difficult for her to write (which is why she had given up the New Yorker, as she said that she wrote more with her hand than with her brain). They talked long and hard about movies, she signed the book and he left.

When he opened the book at his hotel, it readFor Wes Anderson, with a lot of love and some doubts. Pauline kael“. That was a victory for the director. That woman of almost 80 years of age whom he had read rigorously for almost half of his life, he hadn’t rejected her film, he just hadn’t understood it. Kael had the ability to shred a movie like no one else, but for that she had to be a spectator like the rest of the mortals.

And any viewer forges his tastes between the movies he sees and does not see. Rushmore Pauline Kael did not like it, and luckily for the director (in a bad joke he made), Kael could not write a negative review to be published in your favorite magazine.

Wes Anderson’s anecdote with Pauline Kael (written in a short space in the New York Times in 1999), reflects that Anyone who does not write the story or make the movie (or any work of art) has the freedom not to understand it. But that freedom, ironically, comes with one condition: you can’t refuse it.

You can interpret it in a thousand ways or just one, but these readings will never be right or wrong. And in no way can the viewer enter the creator’s mind.

Pauline Kael y Wes Anderson

Capture of the anecdote with Pauline Kael written by Wes Anderson in 99. / Photo: The New York Times

Wes Anderson and lonely journalism

Wes Anderson, since his teens, has collected every issue of the New Yorker from his publications in the 1940s. This magazine, its writers, the articles and the editing process represent one of his greatest obsessions that is reflected in The French Dispatch.

But before you think that this is a “love letter” to journalism or the magazine, The French Dispatch It is a tribute to the irreverence of the profession recognizing how lonely it can be. And also how overwhelming it is, then, to tell a single story among thousands that are worth it.


El elenco de ‘The French Dispatch’. / Foto: Searchlight

Precisely for that, Wes Anderson created an anthology of four short stories that take up passages from articles published in The New Yorker by your favorite writers such as Mavis Gallant, James Baldwin, Brendan Gill, James Thurber, Ben Yagoda, among others.

Currently, Anderson is working on a book that compiles the best articles from the New Yorker. Which brings us to the explanation of the anecdote between the filmmaker and the film critic, as well as the stories that Anderson decides to tell in his productions. In a nutshell, what we see in The French DispatchWhether we like it or not, it is the director’s personal courage in the face of the stories that have been part of it since his adolescence.

With that in mind, between the reviews / critics that say it is their best movie and those that reveal a disenchantment between how much happens, The French Dispatch it is perfect.


Bill Murray as editor Arthur Howitzer Jr. / Photo: Searchlight

The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch shows us Arthur Howitzer Jr., editor de The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun whose base is in the fictional French city Ennui-sur-Blase. The magazine was founded in 1925, and by 1975, the year of Arthur’s death, it would cease to be published.

So the film shows us the work between Arthur and his staff of writers (a kind of well-paid and spoiled journalists). We know Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson), who takes a bike tour in the most problematic streets of the French city between boys and girls, prostitutes and vendors.

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Foto: Searchlight

We also know JKL Berensen (Tilda Swinton), who tells the fascinating story of the painter (and murderer) Moses Rosenthaler and how his guard becomes the muse of his best works, which are the object of desire of art dealer Julian Cadazio. These last three characters played by Benicio del Toro, Lea Seydoux and Adrien Brody.

Then they introduce us to Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand) in a chronicle of the 1968 student protests in France. And to close, we have Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright), who always ends up writing about food like a refuge in the loneliness.


Jeffrey Wright en ‘The French Dispatch’ / Foto: Searchlight

Who is who?

Among editors and writers, Wes Anderson’s characters are based on real people who have fascinated the director since his teens. The character of Arthur Howitzer Jr. In the voice of Bill Murray, it is inspired by the first two editors of the New Yorker: Harold Ross y William Shawn.

Lucinda Krementz refers to Canadian writer Mavis Gallant, but it also has some Lillian Ross. HERE We leave you the Gallant article that inspired the story starring McDormand.

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Foto: Searchlight

As to JKL Berensen, relied entirely on Rosamund Bernier, art critic and friend of figures like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Herbsaint Sazerac finds references in Joseph Mitchell, who received his pay in the New Yorker without writing a single article in almost 3 decades.

Roebuck Wright es James Baldwin, but since it is not a biographical reference or anything like that, it also takes some of its aspects from the food critic AJ Liebling y Tennessee Williams. And finally, there is the character of Julian Cadazio, an art dealer who was based on the controversial Lord Duveen (a subject who claimed that a Da Vinci was fake and sold several works that were replicas, not originals).

From what is known, there is no specific character that references Pauline Kael in The French Dispatch. Yet it is in the entire film, in and out of the story: in Wes’s technique, in his love for the New Yorker, in the development of his characters, in the colors, the ironies. Kael passed on to Wes her love of movies.

PS: If you ask us, Rushmore is the best Wes Anderson movie.


Adrien Brody como Julian Cadazio/ Foto: Searchlight

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‘The French Dispatch’: The Day New Yorker’s Pauline Kael Didn’t Like a Wes Anderson Movie