The Ultimate Form of Trust is Food
by Sara Junuzovic
The French Dispatch is a 2021 film directed, created, and produced by Wes Anderson. It’s an anthology that is separated into three parts, with each part depicting a story from a newspaper publishing organization. Food is continuously mentioned throughout the film, and its significance grows with each part.
In the first segment, titled “The Concrete Masterpiece,” the film masterfully portrays food as a multifaceted element; both as a negotiator’s currency and as communicating his emotions. The art dealer’s bribery with food to establish contact with Rosenthaler, and artist serving a life sentence for murder, highlights the idea that items we hold in high esteem have the power to influence and compel. For Rosenthaler, food becomes a means of communicating his emotions within the confines of his prison cell by using food as an art medium. Anderson accentuates this by rendering his paintings in color amidst the otherwise dreary prison scenes, demonstrating how, even removed from its traditional role of sustenance, food can serve as a feast for the soul when life’s comforts are stripped away.
In the second segment, “Politics/ Poetry”, Anderson again reiterates how food goes beyond sustenance, as the act of sharing meals becomes a symbolic representation of shared values and aspirations. Whether it’s friends acting as matchmakers or efforts to unite opposing sides, Anderson explains how eating food with other people is pivotal in interpersonal relationships. As “Politics/ Poetry” unfolds, the communal dining, and the dining scenes in general, become a catalyst for broader social cohesion. For example, the cafe emerges as a crucial backdrop where student revolutionaries not only confide in each other but plot their uprising. This deliberate choice by Anderson highlights the theme of unity. By showcasing characters engaged in camaraderie around food, he emphasizes the role of dining in fostering connections and trust within the community.
The final portion of the film, titled “Tastes & Smells” where Anderson emphasizes how food is the biggest form of trust. This story is narrated by Roebuck Wright where he describes how a cook, who is also a prominent Lieutenant, helps his boss’ child escape from his kidnappers. Wright also states how “[he has] so often shared the day’s glittering discoveries with no one at all. But there was always, somewhere along the avenue or the boulevard, there was a table set for [he]” implying that food is company itself, and a source of comfort during times of need. However, Anderson also emphasizes how cooking itself is highly important when establishing trust with Lieutenant Nescaffier’s story. It is only food that’s in color during the Lieutenant’s story emphasizing the idea that in life when everything else is imposing a burden, it is food that is able to take those burdens away. However, along with taking burdens away, Anderson also emphasizes how food is able to take our lives away. In order to help the child get away, the cook prepares a feast for the captors under the disguise of making it for the child. By displaying poison as food, he reiterates how food is the biggest form of trust, or lack-thereof, and life and death itself.
In The French Dispatch, food helps shape narratives, emotions, and relationships. Anderson’s use of food highlights its symbolic significance as a feast for the soul, catalyst for unity, and a disguise for both comfort and danger. Through this, he reveals the profound interconnection between food and the human condition.
The French Dispatch. Dir. Wes Anderson. American Empirical Pictures, 2021.