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(Credit: Searchlight Pictures)

Film

The artistry behind the design of Wes Anderson film 'The French Dispatch'

@Russellisation

The films of Wes Anderson are things of beauty, whether you’re looking at the spectacular stature of The Grand Budapest Hotel or the fine details of the coarse fur of Fantastic Mr. Fox. Meticulous detail has long been the focus of the director, priding himself on creating intricate works of cinematic art in which every frame is a portrait of a broken soul or a landscape of great beauty. 

Present in each and every one of his films, this focus on careful symmetry and fine detail is an artistic flourish that has no doubt been heightened in the director’s more recent projects, from 2018’s Isle of Dogs to his latest, The French DispatchThe tenth film of Wes Anderson once more features the familiar likes of Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman and Willem Dafoe alongside a cast of newcomers including Timothée Chalamet and Frances McDormand. 

Telling the beautiful tale of an American magazine named ‘The French Dispatch’, functioning from a quaint French town, the publication recounts the colourful tales of the nation, including travelogues, political pieces and cultural stories. Each new magazine edition is accompanied by a vibrant cover illustration that suffuses both with the beauty of Wes Anderson’s vision and the inspired artwork of European culture. 

Each of these artworks was lovingly designed by illustrator Javi Aznarez, who created multiple faux magazine covers for the film. Having drawn for The New Yorker and The Washington Post in the past, Aznarez was able to bring some real-life experience to the role whilst also drawing from his own imagination and memories. 

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Such is exemplified in one particular magazine cover that sees a pianist’s body slumped over a grand piano after being shot through a window. As Aznarez recalls to Eye on Design, that this was conjured from an old childhood fantasy, explaining: “At my parents’ house we had a neighbour who gave piano lessons. At first, it may seem very bucolic to hear a piano in the background, but when it plays every day you feel like murdering the neighbour”.

Heaping praise on Wes Anderson, Aznarez explains: “He has an incredible eye, and he knows exactly what he wants,” he said, adding: “He immediately sees if the image works or if it is necessary to add some ingredient to make it tastier”. This was taken to extreme lengths when, in one scene, the script outlined that a drawing of Bill Murray had to be painted on a napkin in jam and coffee. Ever the perfectionist, Anderson demanded authenticity, and as Aznarez recalls: “After many attempts and wasting a lot of napkins we discarded the jam,” before adding, “I had to repeat it more than a 100 times until I finally got it right. Drawing on paper napkins with ink and coffee is a nightmare”. 

Reporting that he was “given a lot of freedom” in the production of the covers, he found it “great therapy” to indulge in the darker side of his imagination. Unfortunately, however, ‘The French Dispatch’ is, of course, a fictional magazine, with the beautiful faux covers holding nothing in terms of physical content. Despite this, the A4 beauties from the film remain one of the finest Wes Anderson-inspired creations. 

See examples, below.