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Angoulême: The small town where Wes Anderson filmed 'The French Dispatch'

After the fantastic premiere of the new feature by Wes Anderson at Cannes this year, fans are eagerly waiting for the theatrical release of The French Dispatch. According to the filmmaker, The French Dispatch is a “love letter to journalists” which follows multiple narrative threads revolving around the French branch of a Kansas newspaper.

The stellar cast features the likes of Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray and Timothée Chalamet, among other big names. The French Dispatch received a nine-minute standing ovation and glowing reviews, which praised Anderson for maintaining his fiercely original artistic vision in his latest artistic endeavour.

Unlike many other projects that came out this year, the filming for The French Dispatch started back in 2018 and was wrapped up by March of 2019, which means that the pandemic did not disrupt that particular part of the production process. Anderson’s latest film was set for a screening at the 2020 edition of Cannes, but the Covid-19 outbreak put all such plans on a long pause.

With the recent premiere of The French Dispatch, the fans of Anderson’s works have started asking questions on internet forums about the details related to the production. The most popular query is regarding the filming location of The French Dispatch, something that most people have been speculating since the project was announced.

Thankfully, nobody has to rely on the guesswork for the answers anymore because Anderson has confirmed that principal photography took place in a small town in southwestern France named Angoulême. Called “balcony of the southwest,” Angoulême is a picturesque location situated on top of a plateau from which the river Charente is visible.

“We really looked hard for a town that could be a Parisian quartier like Ménilmontant, Belleville or Montmartre,” Anderson told local news outlet Charente Libre in an interview. “Angoulême has beautiful architecture. The Old Town with its staircases and bridge and different levels is really well preserved. Also, it’s really quiet here, so it’s ideal for making a movie.”

A still from Wes Anderson’s new film The French Dispatch. (Credit: Searchlight Pictures)

While the filming took place all over town, there are particular locations that will stand out when you watch the film. For starters, the French office of the Kansas newspaper was constructed on the square in front of the iconic Cathédrale Saint-Pierre with the help of various props, which are often used by Anderson in his films to highlight the superficial artifice of the cinematic medium.

In addition, scenes were filmed on rue du Sauvage and rue de Bélat for external shots while Anderson’s team utilised an abandoned felt factory near Gond-Pontouvre for its interiors. The French Dispatch also stars Benicio del Toro as an imprisoned artist, and for the prison scenes, the crew migrated to Ruelle in order to get it just right.

If you’re planning to visit the world of The French Dispatch, don’t worry. The travel plans aren’t complicated at all and can be charted out pretty quickly. We recommend that you take a flight to the nearby airport of Bordeaux from where Angoulême is accessible by trains, rental cars and bus services. Once you get on one of those routes, it should take you about a couple of hours to enter Wes Anderson’s cinematic universe.

As for your stay in Angoulême, there a lot of worthwhile options to choose from. Wes Anderson personally preferred the historically significant Hôtel de Bardines even though the entire cast stayed at the luxurious Hôtel Le Saint Gelais for the duration of the filming. Anderson even revealed that Bill Murray was so mesmerised by the beauty of Angoulême that he “stayed a week for a single day’s shooting”.

A new London exhibition will explore the making of The French Dispatch this month before its theatrical release on the 22nd of October. Watch the new trailer for Wes Anderson’s highly anticipated feature below.

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