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Film and TV

The French Dispatch

This is “the most Wes Anderson-y Wes Anderson movie of all time”, says Kameron Austin Collins in Rolling Stone. A “love letter to The New Yorker magazine”, it’s an anthology of four stories, each pulled from the fictional magazine pages of The French Dispatch. Jeffrey Wright plays a James Baldwin stand-in; Frances McDormand is a Canadian flâneuse; Owen Wilson sparkles as a bike-riding travel writer; Tilda Swinton plays an art world aficionado and insider. The French Dispatch is a “treasure hunt” of big names, flipped through like a glossy weekly. “Everything Anderson’s learned how to do over the course of his career” culminates here.

I think I have a relatively high tolerance for whimsy, says Imogen West-Knight in ArtReview. But this takes quirky to another level. A prison guard is bribed with a single delicately wrapped marron glacé. An imprisoned artist (Benicio del Toro) emits an odd Paddington-style growl when he is displeased. Timothée Chalamet has a bath. Am I being a bad sport? Am I not being fun? The gorgeous colour palettes and French cigarettes lend The French Dispatch that certain kind of cool that might intoxicate a teenager. “But it’s a cool that leaves you cold.”

The French Dispatch is in cinemas now. Watch a trailer here.


Shot in black-and-white, Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut is “mesmerising”, says Danny Leigh in the Financial Times. In 1920s New York, two childhood friends bump into each other at a fancy restaurant. One, Clare (Ruth Negga), is “passing”: a black woman so light-skinned that she has chosen to live as white. Her rich, racist white husband (Alexander Skarsgard) has no idea she is anything but white – she worries aloud that any child she has will be “too dark”. Passing is “at once a story of race in America and something still more universal”. As Clare’s friend Irene (Tessa Thompson) says: “We’re all of us passing for something or other.”

Hall, the daughter of theatre director Peter Hall and opera singer Maria Ewing, has “skin in the game”, says Deborah Ross in The Spectator. She learnt as an adult that her mother’s father was biracial, but raised his children as white. Her “fascinating” film – adapted from Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel of the same name – is tightly made, exquisite to look at, strangely tense, riveting and, “let’s be honest, just the right length” at 98 minutes. It’s also coming to Netflix, so you “don’t even need to go anywhere to see it”. Outstanding.

Passing is in cinemas now and on Netflix from 10 November. Watch a trailer here.