There are four distinct story lines within Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, and they’re presented as pieces published in The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun, a fictional American newspaper that’s based in a fictional French village. The exceptionally quirky anthology film has been called “a love letter to journalists,” one fueled specifically by Anderson’s love for The New Yorker magazine.
Introduce yourself to four stories featured in the final issue of The French Dispatch:
The French Dispatch is Anderson’s 10th feature-length movie. What other unexpected sources of inspiration are behind the rest of his filmography? Throughout his career, he’s opened up about some of those influences—often cinematic, of course, but also literary, personal and occasionally the result of sheer coincidence.
In 1999, Anderson shared in a New York Times interview that he and Rushmore co-writer Owen Wilson (his frequent collaborator and former college roommate) wanted the film to “become its own slightly heightened reality, like a Roald Dahl’s children’s book.” That wasn’t a fleeting source of inspiration, because 10 years later, Anderson adapted Dahl’s classic, Fantastic Mr. Fox.
He did more than adapt Dahl’s world—he inhabited it, literally. While writing the screenplay for the film, Anderson visited and eventually resided in Gipsy House, the home in the English village of Great Missenden where Dahl wrote a good majority of his works. Anderson chose to let the setting wash over Fantastic Mr. Fox, and according to Dahl’s wife, he photographed nearly “every object in the house” in order to re-create miniature furniture for his first feature-length stop-motion venture.
It was during production for his first stop-motion film that Anderson happened upon inspiration for his second. During a Q&A for Isle of Dogs, he shared: “When we made Fantastic Mr. Fox a few years ago, we shot in East London and on the way, came upon a sign for a turnoff to Isle of Dogs. It seemed mysterious to me. I looked it up, and it is supposed to be a place where the king kept his hunting dogs in the 16th century, and that was the beginning of the idea for this movie.”
While that chance encounter spawned ideas for the Oscar-nominated animated feature, it wasn’t the only source of inspiration. Anderson has said Isle of Dogs’ biggest influence is Japanese cinema—specifically that of Akira Kurosawa. Beyond nods to the legendary filmmaker’s style and themes, songs from Seven Samurai and Drunken Angel are sprinkled in between tracks on composer Alexandre Desplat’s score, to further invoke Kurosawa’s classics.
In The Darjeeling Limited, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman play three brothers who embark on a spiritual journey through India. In real life, Anderson, too, feels the pull to the country, and he credits that largely to the films of Satyajit Ray. “He is the reason I came here,” he said during an interview in 2007, “but his films have also inspired all my other movies in different ways. I feel I should dedicate the movie to him.” Scores from Ray’s films were playing on repeat while Anderson wrote Darjeeling, and several cues even made it onto the film’s original soundtrack.
Anderson has not shied away from this one. “I stole from Stefan Zweig,” he said during interviews for The Grand Budapest Hotel. In the years leading up to production, he started blazing through the Austrian novelist’s works, so much that he proudly admits elements in his Oscar-winning movie were “sort of stolen” from the books, like the opening of Beware of Pity. And several characters in Budapest are modeled after Zweig himself: the “Author,” played in variations by Tom Wilkinson and Jude Law, but also Ralph Fiennes’ M. Gustave.
Travel, too, inspired this Anderson entry—specifically, and appropriately, the world of hospitality. On a tour of Austria, Hungary, Italy and the Czech Republic, the director got acquainted with many a hotel concierge. At one point during preproduction—and in his strivings for authenticity—he sat down with 14 members of The Golden Key, a group of high-class concierges. Who knew such a club existed?