Visual anthologies are hit or miss. There is, undoubtedly, going to be a segment that doesn’t work as well. It will feel bulky or slower. Rare it may be to find much balance; The French Dispatch at least tries to. Director Wes Anderson’s collection of fictional works of great journalism are the ensemble-heavy notes of love to the boundary-pushing journalists at the heart of great stories. Anderson’s sickly, Mr. Kipling French-Fancy variation of colour, technique and cinematography is abruptly halted. His stylistic dependency is changed. Most surprising of all for The French Dispatch is its reliance on drab tones. Black and white cinematography is the common treatment for these three stories. Reflect on the past, the simplicity of the times. That is the point, but in practice, it makes this latest feature from the distinct visual creator a bit run of the mill.
Mob flicks may have dominated a portion of culture for some time, but their influence has ebbed away. Not entirely, and considering how many are still made, we should take note of their style and their impact. But the glory days are over. These are not the days of Scarface and Goodfellas. No Sudden Move, the latest feature from Steven Soderbergh, does not wish to be like those former examples, nor does it wish to cultivate a new direction for the genre. By setting itself and its impressive ensemble long before the days of mainstream crime, Soderbergh enjoys the ability to come clean with engaging realisations of trope-worthy characters.
In the dying days of the hippie movement, the drug culture lingered as the fashion craze receded. There was the hanger-on’s, of course, and Inherent Vice showcases one of those many men who refused to believe the good times were over. Loose-fitting shirts combine those looser attitudes to life and everything expected of the average person. Paul Thomas Anderson’s drug-seeped, seventies genre blender is a piece holding onto the hope that those good times may come again. It is the driving force behind leading man Joaquin Phoenix, whose performance as Larry “Doc” Sportello sees the shades of the sixties clash with the slowly modernising values of a whole new decade.
If there’s one thing to really learn from The Usual Suspects, it’s that even the most banal and uninteresting performances serve their purpose. Lifeless iterations of characters who can’t offer anything to the viewer can sometimes be a valuable asset. The Usual Suspects fills itself to the brim with these mundane characters, with their interest spun by a man interrogated by the police, who seemingly makes up the legend of a crime lord with cutthroat, mythical intentions. A story of just how far one story can go in covering the elusive nature and whereabouts of a career criminal and bank robber, after getting him and his group in over their heads.