At the French outpost of a small Kansas newspaper, its menagerie of writers recount their most notable stories before the printers stop rolling for good.
As with most anthology films not all segments are of equal quality – the strongest comes first in a tale of a incarcerated artist, played to perfection by Benicio del Toro, whose work is unearthed by a fellow inmate (Adrian Brody) while behind bars. And while the bar may be raised impossibly high, the other two stories maintain the same level of unpredictability and subtle hilarity.
It’s endlessly engaging thanks to Anderson’s impeccable attention to detail, both in the quick-witted script and crisp visuals. With shots so well framed they could be hanging in the Louvre and intriguing details filling the screen it’s an amuse-bouche for the eyes. Anderson moves between black and white, colour and animated segments without diminishing its coherence. The ensemble cast includes Anderson favourites (Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand) and new faces including Tilda Swinton and Thimothée Chalamet, recently seen in everything.
They help bring to life the remarkably non-boring city of Ennui: a traditional French village blown up, its rustic charm pleasingly juxtaposed with its crock of quirky monsiers. The baguettey backdrop works so well with Anderson’s indiosyncracies that by the end it’s hard to imagine a Wes Anderson film not set in France. After Isle of Dogs showed Anderson at his worst, it’s good to see him back on form with a film to rival Grand Budapest Hotel. Maybe he should set all his films in Europe from now on.