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Benicio del Toro plays a convicted artist in "The French Dispatch".
Benicio del Toro plays a convicted artist in "The French Dispatch."

Benicio del Toro makes his debut in the strange universe of Wes Anderson with another Latin reinforced concrete cliché

The Puerto Rican plays an imprisoned artist being chased by an evil art dealer in one of the stories in "The French Dispatch," which premieres July 24.  

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The Oscars still resists him, but the filmmaker Wes Anderson has already earned the reputation of having a universe as personal as Tim Burton, although a little less 'emo'. His latest film, 'The French Dispatch,' is called a fictional magazine - a sort of New Yorker - of an imaginary French city, and tells three stories that are a nostalgic and delirious tribute to a journalism that no longer exists. 

In the first of these, entitled "The Concrete Masterpiece," it follows the artist Moses Rosenthaler, played by Benicio del Toro, whom the journalist responsible for writing this article (Tilda Swinson) defines as "the most powerful artistic voice of a generation of troublemakers." The problem?

Moses Rosenthaler is in prison and the ruthless art dealer Julian Cadazio (Adrien Brody) - a character based on Joseph Duveen, one of the most influential art dealers of all time, who made a fortune buying European works to sell them to rich American industrialists - wants to profit from his creations.

What the film squeaks about, at least for Anderson's Latino fans, is that Anderson hasn't freed Del Toro from his eternal pigeonhole in characters like the hitman, the prisoner, the violent... The actor warned about this a few years ago when he said prophetically in an interview: "Some roles have been with me forever."

On the other hand, the filmmaker, who cannot be blamed for not having been able to create a parallel world between kitsch and fantasy, already sparked controversy with his latest film, "Isle of Dogs" (2018), when he was accused by some critics of cultural appropriation for using the symbols of Japanese culture in a superficial and "fetishistic" way, even though the protagonists were white.

"It is in the director's handling of the human factor in the story where his sensitivity falters, and the weakness for racial stereotypes that has sometimes clouded his work comes to the fore," wrote Justin Chang in the LA Times about that movie. 

Chang added that while the film's anthropomorphic dogs -- played by the filmmaker's fetish actors, such as Edward Norton and Bill Murray -- are fluent in English, the effect is to "reduce the hapless, unsuspecting Megasaki inhabitants to foreigners in their own city."

This time, Brody and Del Toro are joined in the cast by some of the usual faces from Anderson's movies, including Bill Murray himself, as well as Timothée Chalamet and Lyna Khoudri playing revolutionary students, Jeffrey Wright, the wonderful Frances McDormand, Léa Seydoux and Owen Wilson.

We'll have to wait for the premiere, on July 24, to see the result and see if the clichés, still colorful and with a wonderful photographic stamp of the director, have just been confirmed. 

In the meantime, you can draw your own conclusions and watch the trailer that was released last week.

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