What I find most disconcerting about Wes Anderson’s new formalist feature is its attitude towards France, which somehow manages to come across as derisive yet disinterested at the same time: not angry or witty enough to be effective as satire yet not observant enough to seem accurate, at least to a onetime resident of that country such as myself. According to all the American reviews I’ve read, it’s not really about France at all but about the American journalists and critics who report from France about France and the French. But because the movie is basically about them and not about the French, it strikes me as being only half-witted much of the time. The material for a knowing send-up of French culture is present yet unexplored and underdeveloped because the movie doesn’t really seem to care much about French people — only about French movies, French food, and other exports.
I never bothered to read Mavis Gallant in The New Yorker about May 1968 because I was living in Paris that year from June through August, before moving to that city in the fall of 1969 for five more years. So maybe I and the people of France are the last people on earth this movie was designed for. [11/1/21]