Walk of fame:  Wes Anderson

Walk of fame: Wes Anderson"s "The French Dispatch" film locations

For a director with such an individual style, it is strange that hipster-fogy visionary Wes Anderson, who is surprisingly well-traveled, has barely visited his adopted home in France on screen  just in 2007 short Hotel Chevalier, which was filmed in Paris' Hôtel Raphael. That changes with the long-awaited Friday 22 October 2021 arrival of his new film, The French Dispatch, set in Fifties Paris and the unseemly fictional region of Ennui-sur-Blasé.

A combination of his trademark technicolor pastel and black-and-white sequences, it's based around the French outpost of a New Yorker-like American magazine, edited by Bill Murray's Arthur Howitzer Jr., with a raft of other Anderson repertoire players (Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe) and a sprinkling of new stars, including the ubiquitous Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan.

To film this exciting confection, the team headed to the west of France and to Angoulême  small and relatively obscure, but not such a surprising choice for a graphic artist like Anderson. Known as "La Ville de l'Image," the city is a national center for animation and video games, with more than 30 studios in the area. It also offers a beautiful selection of winding streets with the ambience of a Nouvelle Vague classic. "We looked hard for a town that could be a Parisian quartier, like Ménilmontant, Belleville or Montmartre," Anderson told local paper Charente Libre in a rare interview. "Angoulême has beautiful architecture. The Old Town with its staircases, bridge and different levels is well preserved. Also, it's quiet here, so it's ideal for making a movie."

Anderson spent six months on site and used 900 locals as extras, as well as employing crew from the area. For interiors, the team was based at the disused Cofpa felt factory at nearby Gond-Pontouvre, but also shot all over town. A sequence of riot police lined up on an overhead bridge was on rue du Sauvage; rue de Bélat became the site of an old-school newspaper kiosk; and the square in front of Cathédrale Saint-Pierre was transformed with fake facades and scaffolding into the home of the French Dispatch office. All that was missing, Anderson told Charente Libre, was a prison in which to place Benicio Del Toro's Moses Rosenthaler  which they found in nearby Ruelle.

During their stay in the city, the cast made Hôtel Le Saint Gelais, on rue du Père Deval, their second home. And while Anderson expressed appreciation for local landmark Hôtel de Bardines, a pillared mansion on rue de Beaulieu, it seems Bill Murray was the town's biggest fan. "He only had to come once," the director told Charente Libre, "but he insisted on returning the second time he stayed a week for a single day’s shooting."

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