I’ll admit I am a tiny bit cool toward the new Wes Anderson movie, The French Dispatch. When I say “cool toward,” I really just mean “less wild than I usually am about his movies.” It’s a portmanteau movie, and those are—almost by definition—a mixed bag, and I liked some sections better than others. But you should see it, and if you’re comfortable in the movie theater, you should absolutely see it that way because it’s chock full of the usual Anderson geegaws and baubles and Rube Goldberg-y things and foofaraw, and the bigger you see it, the more of all that you see.
But what I am wild about is Alexandre Desplat’s score, and you don’t need to brave the unmasked masses or chitchatty movie audiences (yes, people still talk at top volume even in an arthouse these days; le sigh) to experience it.
I have been a big fan of Desplat ever since The Painted Veil (an underrated movie with a truly great, old-fashioned score). His score for The French Dispatch is full of vague citations musicales (there are a lot of passages that sort of remind you of other things, anyway—in the best possible manner) that plop you right down in the middle of a small French town that never existed. The movie uses a handful of existing recordings (I would call them “vintage,” but I’m not brave enough to call a Grace Jones song “vintage” to her face) to round out the experience—Aznavour, Georges Delarue, Chantal Goya … the list goes on and it’s all so carefully chosen that there’s not a bit of it I’d change.
It’s all a giant macaron, stuffed with a medium-sized macaron and then topped with another tiny macaron.