Wes Anderson’s latest film is his most ambitious and intricately designed yet: and given that he’s the director behind The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom, and more, it’s really saying something.
The French Dispatch revolves around a publication in the vein of The New Yorker. Based in the fictional French town of Ennui-sur-Blasse (actually filmed in Angoulme), the contents of the magazine appear in three vignettes that make up the film: the story of an imprisoned painter (Benicio del Toro, starring Adrien Brody, and Le Sedoux. ); A student revolution (starring Timothée Chalamet and Frances McDormand; and a tense crime mystery about a chef Nescaffier (Stephen Park) and a police commissioner (Matthew Almaric). We also meet the team behind the magazine in a sweeping frame story .
in the new issue of Total Film MagazineIn this article, you can read all about the film via interviews with Anderson and his enthusiastic ensemble cast, but beyond that, here’s an exclusive Q&A with production designer Adam Stockhausen. The French Dispatch is the fifth Anderson film he has worked on, and he is also working on the director’s currently untitled next project.
Read on to learn more about how the film’s brilliantly set and locations came together.
What made you choose Angoulme as the city to set up the French dispatch?
We saw a bunch of different cities… what we really wanted was something that felt like old pictures of Paris. Because of its geography I think Angoulême turned out to be the best option. It sits on top of a hill, so there are winding roads twisting in a spiral. It makes for a lot of great intersections – Y where one leg goes up and the other down, roads that become stairs and then roads, winding roads set one on top of the other. Those features really made Angoulême feel like our contexts (and therefore like Ennui-sur-Blasé), even though it may not be the most ‘Parisian’ of all cities at first glance.
What kind of research did you do in the 1950s/60s time frame? Did Wes point you to some movies?
Loads and loads of photographic research! The pre-Hausmann photographs of Charles Marville were particularly useful. We also used a lot of movies – everything from The Red Balloon and Mon Oncal to Irma La Duc.
Wes told Total Film that you had twice as many sets than any other film you’ve made together… With that in mind, how ambitious did you find this film? What were the difficulties in recreating Wes’s vision?
I think so! This is due to the nature of the story – or rather, four stories. We see a whole world for every single story in the film, which is made up of a lot of sets.
It was very ambitious… and a bit heavy. We Sazerac. work on [Owen Wilson] The story began with the city and exterior of the French Dispatch. It got tougher as we progressed as the sets kept coming and the leads that we had created during the preparation slowly disappeared. There were days when I wasn’t sure if we’d have the next day’s shooting set ready!
In practical terms, were you remodeling locations or was there any studio-based work?
Both loads! Although in our case the studio was an abandoned felt factory!
It was a great setup where we had several locations simultaneously designed and modified around town, and felt like the factory stages were just five minutes down the road. I would make a continuous loop visiting each of them. Wes even managed to jump from one to the other. He would come and check the line-up of shots coming between things.
Out of the three main stories in the film, whose designing did you like the most? And which was the most complicated?
Each one has elements that are very special to me. Certainly the Sazerac story was fun as the shots at Ennui-sur-Blasé are very carefully made and absolutely detailed. I really enjoyed ‘The Concrete Masterpiece’ though because of the tableau we did still life paintings for the sequence where the painting travels the world, and for the frozen fight scene in the hobby room.
I’d say the Nescaffier story was probably the most intriguing – mostly because there were some very complicated camera tricks that had to be unraveled.
French Dispatch opens in US and UK cinemas on October 22. For more on the film from Anderson and his cast, get a copy of the new issue of Total Film Magazine, when it hits shelves this Thursday, September 16, with not one but four Eternal covers:
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