The French Dispatch (2021) Movie Script

It began as a holiday.
Arthur Howitzer Junior,
college freshman...
eager to escape a bright future
on the Great Plains...
convinced his father, proprietor
of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun...
to fund his transatlantic passage
as an educational opportunity...
to learn the family business...
through the production of a series of
travelogue columns...
to be published for local readers
in the Sunday Picnic magazine.
Over the next ten years,
he assembled a team...
of the best expatriate journalists
of his time...
and transformed
Picnic into The French Dispatch...
a factual weekly report
on the subjects of world politics...
the arts, high and low, fashion,
fancy cuisine, fine drink...
and diverse stories of
human interests set in faraway quartiers.
He brought the world to Kansas.
His writers line the spines
of every good American library.
Roebuck Wright.
One reporter known
as the best living writer...
in quality of sentences per minute.
One who never completed
a single article...
but haunted the halls
cheerily for three decades.
One privately blind writer who wrote
keenly through the eyes of others.
The uncontested crackerjack
of grammatical expertise.
Cover illustrations by Herms Jones.
Famously gracious with his writers...
Arthur Junior was less courteous
with the rest of the magazine's staff.
Oh, no, what's that?
I need a turkey.
Stuffed and roasted on a table
with all the trimmings and pilgrims!
His fiscal management system
was convoluted but functional.
Give her 150 francs a week
for the next 15 years...
against five American cents per word,
minus expenses.
His most repeated literary advice,
perhaps apocryphal, was simply this...
Just try to make it sound
like you wrote it that way on purpose.
His return to Liberty comes precisely
50 years after his departure,
on the occasion of his funeral...
by which time the magazine's
circulation exceeds...
half a million subscribers
in 50 countries.
A willow hamper containing umpteen pins,
plaques, and official citations...
of the highest order
is buried at his side,
along with an Andretti Ribbon-mate...
and a ream of triple bond,
Egyptian cotton typing stock.
He received an Editor's burial.
In his will, he stipulated that...
immediately upon his death, quote...
The presses
will be dismantled and liquefied.
The editorial offices will be vacated
and sold.
The staff will be paid ample bonuses
and released from their contracts...
and the publication of the magazine
will permanently cease.
the publisher's obituary will also serve
as that of this publication.
All home delivery readers will, of course,
be refunded, pro rata...
for the unfulfilled portion of
their subscriptions.
His epitaph will be taken verbatim
from the stenciled shingle...
fixed above the door of his inner office.
Berensen's article.
The Concrete Masterpiece.
Three dangling participles,
two split infinitives...
and nine spelling errors
in the first sentence alone.
Some of those are intentional.
The Krementz story,
Revisions to a Manifesto.
We asked for 2,500 words,
and she came in at 14,000...
plus footnotes, endnotes,
a glossary, and two epilogues.
It's one of her best.
- Sazerac?
- Impossible to fact-check.
He changes all the names and only writes
about hobos, pimps, and junkies.
These are his people.
How about Roebuck Wright?
His door's locked,
but I could hear the keys clacking.
Don't rush him.
The question is, who gets killed?
There's one piece too many
even if we print another double-issue...
which we can't afford
under any circumstances.
A message from the foreman.
One hour to press.
You're fired.
Don't cry in my office.
Shrink the masthead, cut some ads,
and tell the foreman to buy more paper.
I'm not killing anybody.
Good writers. He coddled them.
He coaxed them.
He ferociously protected them.
What do you think?
For myself?
I would start with Mr. Sazerac.
These were his people.
Ennui rises suddenly on a Monday.
Through the time machine
of poetic license...
let us take a sight-seeing tour.
A day in Ennui over
the course of 250 years.
The great city began as a cluster
of tradesman's villages.
Only the names remain unchanged.
The Bootblack District.
The Bricklayer's Quarter.
The Butcher's Arcade.
Pick-pocket Cul-de-Sac.
On this site, a fabled market...
vending all forms of
victuals and comestibles...
under a single vast,
glass-and-cast-iron canopy...
later demolished, as you can see...
in favor of a multi-level shopping center
and parking structure.
Like every living city...
Ennui supports a menagerie
of vermin and scavengers.
The rats which colonized
its subterranean railroad.
The cats
which colonized its slanty rooftops.
The anguillettes which colonized
its shallow drainage canals.
After receiving the Host,
marauding choirboys...
half-drunk on the Blood of Christ,
stalk unwary pensioners...
and seek havoc.
In the Flop Quarter, students.
Hungry, restless, reckless.
In the Hovel District...
old people.
Old people who have failed.
The automobile.
A mixed blessing. On the one hand...
the honking, skidding, speeding,
sputtering, and backfiring.
The emission of toxic fumes
and filthy exhaust-pollution...
the dangerous accidents,
the constant traffic, the high...
Department of Local Statistics.
Average rainfall, 750 millimeters.
Average snowfall, 190,000 flakes.
Eight-point-two-five bodies
are pulled from the Blas river each week.
A figure which remains consistent despite
population growth...
and advances in health and hygiene.
As the sun sets,
a medley of unregistered streetwalkers...
and gigolos replaces the day's
delivery boys and shopkeepers...
and an air of promiscuous calm
saturates the hour.
What sounds will punctuate the night?
And what mysteries will they foretell?
Perhaps the doubtful
old maxim speaks true.
All grand beauties...
withhold their deepest secrets.
"Rats, vermin, gigolos, streetwalkers."
You don't think it's almost
too seedy this time?
- No, I don't.
- For decent people.
It's supposed to be charming.
"Pick-pockets, dead bodies,
prisons, urinals..."
You don't want to add a flower shop...
- or an art museum?
- No, I don't.
A pretty place of some kind?
I hate flowers.
You could cut the second half
of the second paragraph, by the way.
You already repeat it later.
We take as the subject
of tonight's lecture...
the great painter at the vanguard...
and heart of
the French Splatter-school Action-group...
Mr. Moses Rosenthaler.
Widely celebrated, as you know...
for the bold dramatic style,
and colossal scale of his middle-period...
in particular, of course,
the polyptych-tableaux known as...
Ten Reinforced Cement
Aggregate Load-Bearing Murals.
He remains, in my opinion,
the most eloquent...
and certainly, the loudest artistic voice
of his rowdy generation.
How does this pivotal piece
come to find its way...
into its unique position
as a permanent installation here...
at the Clampette Collection?
The story begins in a mess hall.
The exhibition,
Ashtrays, Pots, and Macram...
a group show of handicrafts
by amateur artisans...
incarcerated in the lunatic section
of the Ennui Prison-Asylum...
might, perhaps, have been omitted
from the annals of art history...
had it not been for the inclusion
in its number of a small painting...
by Mr. Rosenthaler,
who was, at that time...
serving a 50-year sentence
for the crime of double homicide...
and the observation of that work
by a fellow inmate...
the Levantine art dealer
Mr. Julian Cadazio...
who, by fateful coincidence,
happened to be imprisoned...
in the adjoining annex on a charge of
second-degree sales tax evasion.
Who painted this picture?
Citizen 7524.
I believe that unit designates maximum
security for the demented and deranged.
Are you able to provide me an escort
and a Friendly Visit Stamp...
for immediate use?
Simone, Naked, Cell Block J, Hobby Room.
I wanna buy it.
Because I like it.
It's not for sale.
Yes, it is.
- No, it isn't.
- Yes, it is.
- No, it isn't.
- Yes, it is.
- No, it isn't.
- It is, yes. It is.
All artists sell all their work.
It's what makes you an artist.
Selling it.If you don't wish
to sell it, don't paint it.
Question is, what's your price?
50 cigarettes.
Actually, make it 75.
Why do you keep looking at that guard?
She's Simone.
I don't want to buy this
important piece for 50 cigarettes.
- Or 75 of prison currency.
I want to pay you 250,000 francs
in legal French tender.
Do we agree on the sale?
I can only offer a deposit of...
83 centimes, one candied chestnut,
and four cigarettes.
Everything I have at this
present moment in time.
However, if you'll accept my
signatory voucher, I assure you...
a check for the outstanding balance
will be remitted to your account
within 90 days.
Where do you bank?
Never mind.
How'd you learn to do it, by the way?
Paint this kind of picture.
Also, who'd you murder,
and how crazy are you, really?
I need background information
so that we can do a book about you.
It makes you more important.
Who are you...
Moses Rosenthaler?
Born rich, the son
of a Jewish-Mexican horse rancher...
Miguel Sebastian Maria
Moiss de Rosenthaler...
trained at the cole des Antiquits
at significant family expense.
But, by the end of his youth...
he had shed all the luxuries...
of his comfortable background
and replaced them with...
Physical danger.
Mental illness.
And, of course...
Criminal violence.
He did not pick up a brush
during the first decade...
of his long prison sentence.
Permission to sign up for
activity privileges, gardienne.
This thing?
What do you mean?
Tell the group about yourself.
- I don't wanna do that.
- It's mandatory.
- They know me already.
- That's not the point.
- I haven't even prepared a speech.
- Say something.
Well, I've been here
3,647 days and nights.
Another 14,603 to go.
I drink 14 pints of mouthwash rations
per week.
At that rate...
I think I'm going to
poison myself to death...
before I ever get to see the world again,
which makes me feel...
very sad.
I gotta change my program.
I gotta go in a new direction.
Anything I can do to keep my hands busy,
I'm gonna do.
I think maybe it's gonna be a suicide.
And that's why I signed up
for clay pottery and basket weaving.
My name is Moses.
Take a pew.
What's your name, gardienne?
Certain women do gravitate
toward incarcerated men.
It's a recognized condition.
Something about the captivity of others...
enhances the experience
of their own freedom.
I assure you, it's erotic.
Look at her, by the way.
Born into quasi-serfdom...
16 brothers and sisters.
Illiterate until she was 20.
Now, a woman of considerable property.
Good God.
Wrong slide. That's me.
Simone, of course, refused all
Rosenthaler's entreaties of marriage...
which, we are told, were frequent...
and marvelously enthusiastic.
I wanna say it as simple as I can.
To try to shape it into words.
The feelings in my heart.
- I don't love you.
- I love you.
I don't love you.
Already what?
Already how do you know that?
How can you be sure? It's so quick.
I'm sure.
That hurts me.
The cruelty of it. The cold-bloodedness.
You said what you wanted to say.
I tried to stop you. That's it.
I said part of what I wanted to say.
I was in the middle of it. There's more.
- No what? Will you...
- No.
- Will you marry me?
- No.
I'm gonna need art supplies.
Canvas, stretchers, brushes, turpentine.
What do you want to paint?
The future.
Which is you.
Widely not considered
a great connoisseur...
Julian Cadazio, nevertheless,
had an eye for something,
and he did us all a very good turn...
when the hour he was released
from prison...
We're done with flowers and fruit bowls.
We're finished with beaches and seascapes.
We're getting out of armor, rugs,
and tapestries, too.
I found something new.
Modern art?
Modern art. Our specialty, starting now.
- I don't get it.
- Of course you don't.
- Am I too old?
- Of course you are.
- Why is this good?
- It isn't good. Wrong idea.
That's no answer.
My point. You see the girl in it?
Trust me, she's there.
One way to tell if a modern artist
actually knows what he's doing...
is to get him to paint you a horse
or a flower or a sinking battleship...
or something that's
actually supposed to look like...
the thing that it's actually
supposed to look like.
Can he do it? Look at this.
Drawn in 45 seconds right in front of me
with a burnt matchstick.
A perfect sparrow. That's excellent.
May I keep it?
Don't be stupid. Of course not.
The point is, he could paint
this beautifully if he wanted...
but he thinks this is better.
And I think I sort of agree with him.
Simone, Naked, Cell Block J, Hobby Room
is probably a masterpiece...
worth a significant, even exorbitant,
sum of money.
But not yet.
The desire must be created.
How long is he in for?
Mr. Rosenthaler...
why should we put you back on the street?
Because it was an accident, Your Honor.
I didn't intend to kill anybody.
You decapitated two bartenders
with a meat saw.
The first bartender was an accident.
The second one was self-defense.
Well, be that as it may...
what demonstration of genuine remorse,
or, at the very least...
regret can you offer
for beheading these men?
They had it coming.
- I beg your pardon?
- Forgive me.
Is there a part of this ritual
where you ask...
if anybody has something
to say before it's too late?
Like, at a wedding.
- No.
- I'll be brief.
We all know this man is a murderer.
Totally guilty of first-degree homicide,
any way you slice it.
That's a given.
However, he's also that rare
once-in-a-generation guy...
that you hear about, but never get
the chance to discover for yourself.
An artistic genius.
Surely, there ought to be
a double standard
for this sort of predicament.
Supposedly, he's a psychotic, by the way.
That's not his fault.
Respectfully, I submit...
maybe we could think up
some other way to punish him?
Rosenthaler's right to petition
for parole was permanently revoked...
for the duration of his sentence.
No further questions.
Nevertheless, Cadazio and his uncles were
unanimous in their decision...
to promote the artist
as his exclusive brokers...
throughout the free world.
Simone travelled far and wide.
The Ennui Salon.
The Royal Exposition.
The International Pavilion
at the Liberty, Kansas State Fair...
which was very nearly
burned to the ground.
In short, the picture was a sensation.
Even the artist's all but forgotten
earlier work...
inspired wildly robust sales
on the secondary market.
Meanwhile, Rosenthaler
continued to work in confinement.
Strikingly, the artist favored
raw materials sourced...
exclusively from within
the prison-asylum domain.
Powdered eggs.
Pigeon blood.
Shackle grease.
Coal, cork, and dung.
Fire, of course.
Bright yellow scullery soap.
And fresh cream of millet
as a binding agent.
Simone liked to stand still.
Indeed, she was Olympian in her ability...
to hold extremely challenging positions
for extended periods of time.
She exhibited very little vulnerability
to extremes of heat or cold.
After even the most adverse
forms of exposure...
her skin remained unburned,
unblemished, un-goose-pimpled.
Another tidbit.
She genuinely enjoyed
the smell of turpentine...
and in later years actually wore it
in the application of her toilet.
She was more than a muse.
Throw the switch.
Throw the switch, you cocksucker.
What's wrong with you? Go back to work.
I can't.
I won't. It's too hard.
It's torture.
I'm literally a tortured artist.
Poor baby.
Get out.
Is that what you want?
What's your problem?
I don't know what to paint.
The French Splatter-school Action group.
A dynamic, talented, lusty, slovenly,
violent pack of creative savages.
They inspired and very often...
personally attacked each other
for two decades and more.
I'll have my drink now.
Remember, in those days, as you know...
it was much more socially acceptable
for a painter or a sculptor...
to hit another fellow
with a chair or even a brick...
or walk around with a black eye
or a broken tooth and so on.
Indeed, I'm jumping ahead,
but in my own experience...
Rosenthaler could be quite
unpredictably impulsive.
Meaning, I refer to the pigment locker
beneath his studio...
in the Boulevard des Plombiers,
on one occasion...
he grabbed me and put me in there,
and inappropriately, sort of,
tried to fuck me...
against the wall in the corner
of that pigment locker.
He was crazy. Officially certified.
The Cadazios, of course,
represented them all.
It's three years later.
We've made you
the most famous painter alive...
based on one small,
scribbly, overrated picture.
You're an art school course.
You're an encyclopedia entry.
Even your disciples have won
and squandered multiple fortunes...
yet you refuse to show us
so much as a sketch or a study...
for a single new piece
during this entire, protracted period.
How long are we meant to wait?
Well, don't answer,
because we're not asking.
We already printed the invitations.
We're coming in.
All of us. The collectors. The critics.
Even your second-rate imitators
we represent who suck up to you...
and smuggle you goodies and probably
turn out to be better than you are.
The bribes alone
are going to be outrageous,
as these guards can assure you.
But we're gonna pay 'em.
So, finish it, whatever it is.
The show is in two weeks.
She thinks it's ready, by the way.
It's ready.
I could use another year.
My employer, at that time,
received the intriguing summons...
by rapid-priority wire.
I refer, of course,
to Upshur "Maw" Clampette.
Astute collector of antiquities.
Great friend to the avant-garde.
Her collection, even in its infancy,
was well-known and important...
as was her residence,
Ingo Steen's first American commission...
informally known as the Doorstop House.
It was my duty, and I may say,
my privilege to catalogue...
archive, and advise, although she did
whatever the hell she wanted...
no matter what you told her, anyway.
Thus, we began the long journey
from Liberty to Ennui.
My dear Mrs. Clampette, Maw, if I may,
please join us for the first display of
Mr. Moses Rosenthaler's...
extremely exciting new work,
which I, myself,
have not yet been permitted to see.
In order to facilitate the viewing
in a timely fashion...
it may prove necessary for us
to surreptitiously gain access
to the facility...
where the artist currently resides.
Please rely on my operatives to organize
any and all details...
and preparations for your visit.
Caution, do not bring matches, lighters,
or sharp objects of any kind.
We await your confirmation
with cheerful anticipation.
Yours most truly, Cadazio Uncles
and Nephew Galerie concern.
The paddy wagon collected us directly
after the night's final round...
of working girls and revelers
were delivered to the drunk tank
at 3:00 a.m.
Moses, are you here?
Any words of introduction?
Or perhaps, a welcome to our
wonderful guests, some of whom...
have traveled a great distance
to come see your work, I hope?
Or, alternatively, just, I don't know.
Quiet, please!
Quiet, please!
I did it. It's good! This is historic.
Open the champagne! I did it.
Why are you sitting in a wheelchair
like an invalid?
You should be dancing on the tables!
It's a triumph!
Do you like it?
Do I like it?
Look at Maw, she's mesmerized.
This here's a fresco, t'weren't it?
Precisely. He's a Renaissance master
of the highest order.
He mines the same vein
as Piperno Pierluigi
when he illuminated...
The Christ Before God's Heavenly Altar
in 1565.
Maw, nobody has an eye
for things nobody has ever seen...
like Maw Clampette of Liberty, Kansas.
We should be ashamed to even gather
in her presence.
Why the fuck did she say fresco?
Are they painted into the walls?
Oh, no. What has he done?
You fucking asshole.
Are you seeing this? Look at this!
- Well, I think it's utterly wonderful.
- It's crucial!
It's probably a turning point in
the evolution of human pictography.
Scratched and plastered into a reinforced
cement aggregate gymnasium.
He even painted onto the radiators!
Maybe one of them restoration fellers out
at the Fondazione dell'Arte Classico...
could figure a way to rustle
them pictures loose.
We're in a maximum-security prison, Maw.
It's federal property.
Even to begin the bureaucratic nightmare
would require years...
of negotiation with a team of highly-paid,
arrogant, obnoxious advocates.
I don't even know how you'd peel them off.
It's a fresco.
Hey! It's a fresco!
So what?
Can you even begin to fathom
the shit-ton of money...
my uncles and I have squandered
to get to this point of no return?
Look at them!
You've ruined us!
Does it mean nothing to you?
I thought you liked it.
I think it stinks!
Get out of that wheelchair!
I'm going to kick your ass
up and down this hobby room!
Don't growl at me,
you convicted murderer.
You homicidal, suicidal,
psychopathic, no-talent drunk!
Why didn't you tell me, gardienne?
Because you would've stopped him.
We have to accept it.
His need to fail is more powerful...
than our strongest desires
to help him succeed.
I give up. He's defeated us.
- He's defeated us.
- Sad, but there it is.
Anyway, at least,
he finished the motherfucker.
It is, perhaps, the most interesting
contemplation of peripheral vision...
I've ever seen.
Well done, Moses.
Well done, Moses.
This has a greatness to it.
If you plastered it deep enough,
it may last.
We'll come and see it again one day.
God willing.
You'll already still be here, of course.
It's all Simone.
At that moment, they were both aware of
Simone's intention...
to leave her position
at the Ennui Prison-Asylum
the following day...
endowed with funds
provided by the Cadazios...
as compensation for her work
as Rosenthaler's model and muse.
She was reunited with the estranged child
to whom...
she had given birth in her youth,
and the two never again lived apart.
She and Rosenthaler
maintained a regular correspondence...
for the rest of the artist's life.
Mrs. Clampette would like
to put the piece on hold.
The half-sticker?
Yes, please.
Should she choose to finalize the sale...
will this amount be acceptable to you
and your uncles?
Can we get a deposit?
Maw? An advance against the total sum?
Tell them stingy Frenchmen
I ain't making no promises.
Ten Reinforced Cement
Aggregate Load-Bearing Murals...
was to remain on hold under the name
Upshur Clampette...
for the subsequent 20 years.
Which prisoners?
Tell them we don't bribe
rapists and pickpockets. It's unethical.
Besides, I didn't bring an additional
6,000,000 francs in small bills.
How'd you get out there?
What do we do?
Lock the door.
In the aftermath, 72 prisoners...
and six members
of the French Splatter-school
lay dead or mortally wounded.
Moses Rosenthaler,
for acts of extreme valor...
which saved the lives of nine guards,
22 distinguished visitors...
and the Ministers
of Culture and Urbanity...
received his freedom
with probation for life.
And was decorated
in the Order of the Caged Lion.
One score later, as per
Maw Clampette's detailed instructions...
Cadazio and his own nephews arranged for
the entirety of the hobby room...
to be relocated onboard a Goliath aviation
12-engine artillery transport...
directly from Ennui to Liberty.
In this form, the avant-garde
assumed its place...
upon the plains of Central Kansas.
"Pencils, pens, erasers, thumbtacks...
"pushpins, typewriter repairman."
Why am I paying for a hotel room
at a beach club
on the North Atlantic coast?
Because I had to go there to write it.
"Breakfast, lunch, dinner, laundry,
nightcap, midnight snack."
What is wrong with the desk
right here in your office?
Courtesy of this magazine.
Don't ask me to be indiscreet about
what happened between me and Moses...
at a seaside inn 20 years ago.
We were lovers.
I went back to remember.
On my dime.
Yes, please.
Add it up.
March 1st.
Negotiations between undergraduates
and the university administration...
break down abruptly
in early morning hours...
after clamorous debate,
angry name-calling...
and, finally, outright gambling over...
the right of free access to the girl's
dormitory for all male students.
The protest which ended in a stalemate...
...gave the superficial appearance
of a vanity exercise...
for the pimple-cream
and wet-dream contingent.
But, in fact,
the sexes were equally represented.
Young lady...
And all participants emphasized
the basis of their frustration...
a desire, more, a biological need...
for freedom. Full stop.
It has exploded into symbolism...
and everybody's talking about it.
March 5th.
Late supper at the B's.
Eldest boy, 19, not home
since yesterday morning.
Father chanced upon him midday,
marching alongside his comrades.
Their slogan...
"The children are grumpy."
Thank you.
An additional dinner guest,
thus far, fails to appear.
For this, I am grateful.
Had not been informed of his invitation
in first place.
We didn't mean to offend you. We're sorry.
We thought you might decline
the invitation if we warned you.
- You were right.
- Yeah.
Local news reports aggressive
crowd-control methods
in use on street today. Quote...
Just give him a chance.
He's very intelligent.
So, how long has it been
since what's-his-name?
I know you mean well.
"It begins with a prickly tingling
of the exposed skin."
I'm not an old maid.
We don't think that.
Of course you're not.
"Then, a reddening and swelling
of the orbital muscles."
Take me at my word.
I live by myself on purpose.
I prefer relationships that end.
I deliberately choose to have
neither husband nor children.
The two greatest deterrents to any woman's
attempt to live by and for writing.
- Why are we crying?
- Because it's sad.
We don't want you to be alone.
Loneliness is a kind of poverty.
I'm not sad. My eyes hurt.
There's something wrong
with your apartment.
"Finally, a barrage of searing pain
as snot pours from the nostrils...
"and the throat spasms and constricts."
Don't breathe.
I'm naked, Mrs. Krementz.
I can see that.
- Why are you crying?
- Tear gas.
I suppose I'm sad.
Please turn away.
I feel shy about my new muscles.
Go tell your parents you're home.
They're worried.
I'm expected back on the barricades.
I didn't see any barricades.
Well, we're still constructing them.
What are you writing?
A manifesto.
I told them not to invite Paul,
by the way.
Maybe you're sad,
but you don't seem lonely to me.
I saw you at the protest
on top of a bookcase taking notes.
Is there a story in us?
For the people of Kansas.
Then you should study our resolutions.
Or, anyway, will you proofread it?
My parents think you're a good writer.
Give it to me.
It's a little damp.
Physically or metaphorically?
Both. Based on the cover
and the first four sentences.
Don't criticize my manifesto.
Oh, you don't want remarks?
I don't need remarks, do I?
I only asked you to proofread it...
'cause I thought you'd be even more
impressed by how good it already is.
Let's start with the typos.
Can the faculty succeed
if the students fail?
It remains to be seen.
- Paul Duval.
- Lucinda Krementz.
How do you do?
Your beard is scratching me.
Unexpected guest finally arrives.
Looks like hell.
Describes odyssey across city.
Stalled trains, stalled buses...
broken windows, paving stones
flying in all directions.
Anyway, we're here.
The famous Lucinda. Hello.
I did not know you were coming.
They did not tell me.
This is not an official meeting.
Good evening.
Start without me.
March 10th. City services at a halt,
one week and counting.
Public transportation, suspended.
Piles of garbage, uncollected.
Schools on strike.
No mail, no milk.
It's me again.
What will normal reality be?
Next week, next month, whenever, if ever,
we get the chance to experience it again.
Anyone's guess.
What's this part?
I added an appendix.
- You're joking.
- No, I'm not.
You finished my manifesto without me.
I made it sound like you, I think.
Just more clear, more concise...
a bit less poetic.
Put it this way, this isn't
the first manifesto I've proofread.
Impossible to imagine these students,
exhilarated, naive,
brave in the extreme...
returning to their obedient classrooms.
Who was that?
- Your mother.
- My mother.
My mother?
What did she want?
Did you tell her I was here?
- Yes.
- Why?
Because she asked. I don't lie.
Was she upset?
I don't think so.
- What did she say?
- She nodded.
What did you say?
I told her I was working on an article
about you and your friends.
So, you are.
I've already written 1,000 words.
I asked to interview her.
Did she agree?
Yes, of course.
Well, I am upset!
I don't know how to feel.
Am I in trouble?
Why would my mother be so calm?
Is this proper?
This is all off-the-record. Everything.
My whole life.
What am I supposed to do now?
I should maintain journalistic neutrality.
I like how ruthless you are.
It's part of your beauty, I think.
So, you've got 1,000 words already?
The kids did this.
Obliterated 1,000 years of Republican
authority in less than a fortnight.
How and why?
Before it began,
where did it begin?
It was another time. It was another Ennui.
Must be nearly six months ago, I guess.
My sisters were still 12, anyway.
You danced to the Craze
and the Lait Chaud.
You wore your hairdo in the Pompidou,
the Crouton, or the Fruits-de-Mer.
Your slang mixed bits of Latin
with philosophy jargon
and manual signaling.
Devil's advocates bickered
and debated perpetually, ad nauseam,
only for the sake of argument.
Every clique had a rival.
The Nuts had the Bolts.
The Sticks had the Stones.
The Jocks had us, the Bookworms,
until Mitch-Mitch failed
the baccalaureate...
and got sent down
to National Duty-obligation.
Three months in the Mustard Region.
He was sent to the Mustard Region
for National Duty-obligation.
I'm sorry?
How dare you? Who gave you permission
to besmirch our friend?
Does it occur to you...
he's very probably somewhere marching
in the middle of the night right now...
carrying a 50-pound sack of gunpowder
and peeling stale potatoes...
while he digs a latrine trench
in the rain with a tin cup?
He doesn't want to be in the military.
Easy for you to say
from the comfort of the Sans Blague.
Mitch-Mitch, what are you doing here?
You're supposed to be in the Mustard
Region for another two months.
Five years later, I, myself, translated...
Mitch-Mitch Simca's poetic interpretation
of his National Duty-obligation service.
The flashback scene
in Act Two of Goodbye, Zeffirelli.
In North Africa,
I caught a bullet in the tail.
In South America, I caught a chunk
of high-explosive shrapnel
in the left wing.
In East Asia, I picked up a rare,
microbial, infectious gut-parasite...
in the lower abdominal cavity,
and I've got them all with me right now...
still in my body...
but I don't regret my choice
to wear this uniform.
And in 16 years, I'll get my pension.
Well, that's your bedtime story, ladies.
Lights out!
Hup! Ho! Hut! Lights out!
Covers tucked! Blankets on!
- Pray your prayers!
- Sir!
Amen. Amen. Amen.
Psst, Mitch-Mitch. Psst.
Psst, Mitch-Mitch. What do you wanna be?
What do you want to be, Mitch-Mitch?
With my grades,
I'll be an assistant pharmacist.
Will that make you be satisfied?
It won't depress me.
I should have studied harder.
And you, Robouchon?
I have no choice.
I'll work for my father's glass factory.
Someone has to take over.
It's normal.
Vaugirard. What's your plan?
I suppose I'll continue
to be an attractive wastrel...
like my cousins on both sides
of the family.
- Your cousins are the best.
- I love your cousins.
- Yeah.
- What about you, Morisot?
Morisot, what do you want to be?
A protestor.
What'd he say?
He said, "A protestor."
What does he mean?
I don't know.
I thought Morisot was supposed to be
a professor of geological chemistry.
Morisot's crying.
Who said "shh"?
I won't do it.
It's only eight more weeks, Morisot,
before we complete the program.
I don't mean the program.
I mean from when we go home
until retirement age.
That 48-year period of my life, I mean.
That's what I won't do.
I can no longer envision myself
as a grown-up man in our parents' world.
He went out the window!
- Is he dead?
- I don't know.
How far did he fall?
Five floors with high ceilings.
It rained last night.
Maybe the mud's still soft.
He's not moving.
He's still not moving.
He's still not moving.
He's still not moving.
He's still not moving.
He's still not moving.
He's still not moving.
The next morning, Mitch-Mitch was arrested
for Desertion and Desecration,
and the Sans Blague became headquarters...
for the Movement of Young Idealists
for the Revolutionary Overthrow...
of Reactionary Neo-liberal Society.
What are you doing?
They can live together.
Tip-top with Charvet.
There followed, a brisk,
unpredictable tit-for-tat...
between Ennui's elders and its youngers.
Community Whisper Campaign
denounces student movement.
Sans Blague coffee license
revoked by official decree.
Propaganda Committee erects
pirate radio tower...
on Physics Department rooftop.
Meal plan blockade
of the undergraduate cafeteria.
Check-out protest
at the Bibliothque Principale.
Entire library circulation
legally removed...
until five minutes before
incur of massive overdue book fines.
Mitch-Mitch released to parental custody.
The girl's dormitory uprising.
It all, in the end, leads to...
The chessboard revolution.
What page you on?
I think so. By definition.
In spite of the purity of their cause...
to create a free, borderless,
utopian civilization...
the students, nevertheless...
split into factions before
fully uniting in first place.
One thing is now finally clear,
they are answering their parents.
What do they want?
To defend their illusions.
A luminous abstraction.
I am convinced
they are better than we were.
Mrs. Krementz suggested it, actually.
The appendix.
Polished it. Certain passages.
I inscribed it to you.
Remind myself, "You are a guest
at this manifestation.
"Not my fight. Stay out of it, Lucinda.
Keep your mouth shut."
I have to say something.
You're a very bright girl, Juliette.
If you put away your powder puff
for one minute, forgive me...
and think for yourself for one minute,
forgive me...
you might realize
you're all in this together.
Even the riot police.
Our move.
That was impolite. Of me.
I withdraw the remark.
I beg your pardon.
I'm sorry.
Thank you.
You're sure?
Sure you're not a child?
Then learn to accept an apology.
That's important.
Our move. The mayor's waiting.
Kindly leave me my dignity.
She's not an old maid.
She's not in love with me.
She's our friend. I'm her friend.
She's confused.
She wants to help us.
She's angry.
She's a very good writer.
It's a lonely life, isn't it?
It's true. I should maintain
journalistic neutrality...
if it exists.
Please excuse me, Mrs. Krementz.
It's just fireworks.
She's the best of them.
Stop bickering. Go make love.
Me, too. Except for Mrs. Krementz.
I thought so.
March 15th.
Discover on flyleaf of my composition book
a hasty paragraph.
Not sure when Zeffirelli
had the chance to write it.
Late that night while I slept?
Poetic, not necessarily in a bad way.
Reads as follows...
Post script to a burst appendix.
An invincible comet speeds
on its guided arc...
toward the outer reaches
of the galaxy in cosmic space-time.
What was our cause?
Recollection of two memories.
You. Soap scent of drugstore shampoo...
ashtray of stale cigarettes, burnt toast.
Her. Perfume of cheap gasoline...
coffee on the breath, too much sugar,
cocoa butter skin.
Where does she spend her summers?
They say it's the smells
you finally don't forget.
The brain works that way.
I've never read my mother's books.
I'm told my father was really
quite remarkable during the last war.
Best parents I know.
The girls' dormitory.
First time I've come inside, except
to vandalize it during demonstrations.
I said, "Don't criticize my manifesto."
She said...
I feel shy about my new muscles.
Her large, stupid eyes watched me pee.
A thousand kisses later...
will she still remember the taste
of my tool on the tip of her tongue?
Apologies, Mrs. Krementz.
I know you despise crude language.
Additional sentence at bottom of page...
completely indecipherable
due to poor penmanship.
"Revisions to a Manifesto.
Page four, asterisk one.
"The promotion of..."
I'll be right back.
He is not an invincible comet
speeding on its guided arc...
toward the outer reaches of the galaxy
in cosmic space-time.
Rather, he is a boy who will die young.
He will drown on this planet...
in the steady current of the deep, dirty,
magnificent river...
that flows night and day through the veins
and arteries of his own ancient city.
His parents will receive a telephone call
at midnight...
dress briskly, mechanically,
and hold hands in the silent taxi...
as they go to identify the body
of their cold son.
His likeness, mass-produced
and shrink-wrap packaged...
will be sold like bubblegum
to the hero-inspired...
who hope to see themselves like this.
The touching narcissism of the young.
March 30th.
Across the street, a glaring metaphor.
Bell rings, pupils scamper inside back
to their obedient classrooms.
A creaky swing sways
in the deserted schoolyard.
Come in!
Someone told me you have
a photographic memory.
- Is that true?
- That is false.
I have a typographic memory.
I recollect the written word with
considerable accuracy and detail.
In other spheres, my powers of retention
are distinctly impressionistic.
I'm known to my intimates
as a most forgetful man.
Yet you remember
every word you ever wrote.
The novels, the essays, the poems,
the plays...
The unrequited valentines. Sadly, I do.
May I test you?
If you must.
Unless we try the patience
of your viewership...
or the esteemed spokesmen
for Gemini tooth powder?
My favorite piece
is the one about the cook...
where the kidnappers get poisoned.
"Do students of the table
dream in flavors?
"That was the first of the questions
a reporter for this magazine...
"had diligently prepared in advance
of his encounter...
"with Lieutenant Nescaffier...
"ranking chef at District Headquarters
on the narrow river-peninsula...
"known as the Rognure d'Ongle.
"All such queries were to
remain unanswered in...
"the course of that eventful evening."
Shall I carry on?
I'd arrived insufficiently early.
Though the suite of rooms
on the penultimate floor...
of the grand edifice was hypothetically
indicated on a floorplan...
provided on the back
of the carte de dgustation... was nigh impossible to locate,
at least for this reporter.
A weakness in cartography.
The curse of the homosexual.
Monsieur Nescaffier made
his name and reputation.
He is fanatically celebrated among cooks,
cops, and capitaines...
not to mention squealers, stoolies,
and snitches...
as the great exemplar
of the mode of cuisine...
known as Gastronomie Gendarmique.
"Police cooking" began with the stake-out
picnic and paddy-wagon snack...
but has evolved and codified
into something refined...
intensely nourishing, and,
if executed properly...
marvelously flavorful.
highly portable, rich in protein...
eaten with the non-dominant hand only...
the other being reserved
for firearms and paperwork.
Most dishes are served pre-cut.
Nothing crunchy.
Quiet food.
Sauces are dehydrated and ground
to a powder to avoid spillage...
and the risk of
the tainting of a crime scene.
Diners are expected to provide their own
fourchettes de poche...
often engraved with the arcane mottoes...
and off-color sayings of their
respective precincts.
How are you planning to kill me?
I believe this to be...
a case of mistaken identity.
Have you been in the chicken coop
for a very long while?
I beg your pardon.
Monsieur Nescaffier,
even during his apprenticeship...
in a provincial fire department,
aspired to a lofty perch...
and there can be no higher position
in the mtier than that of...
Chef Cuisinier for the private dining
room of the...
Commissaire de la Police Municipale.
Forgive my tardiness.
No, not at all. Not at all.
Mr. Wright, may I present my mother...
Louise de la Villatte.
You can call her Maman.
We all do.
This is my oldest friend, Chou-fleur.
When I met him,
he was a girlish little schoolboy...
with ringlets and a full set of teeth.
Now, he looks like a corpse.
In the corner, Patrolman Maupassant.
He'll be serving.
And this is my son, Gigi,
in the crime-lab smock.
What are you stealing
from my personal records?
Unsolved cases.
Well, say hello to Mr. Wright.
Hello, Mr. Wright.
Hello, Gigi.
Full name, Isadore Sharif de la Villatte.
The Commissaire and his only son...
widowered and motherless,
left the colony where the boy was born,
cemented together by their shared grief.
Gigi was six.
His schoolrooms were the station house
and the squad car.
He was educated by forensic tutors
in the traditions of law enforcement.
His first drawings were facial composites
based on eyewitness testimony.
His first words were in Morse code.
It was, I suppose, wonderfully obvious.
He was brought up to succeed
the Commissaire himself.
Yes, I've read you. In the magazine.
To your satisfaction?
Of course. Of course.
Good writer.
I trust you are already familiar
with this genius.
At least by reputation.
Lieutenant Nescaffier.
I surely am.
The drink, a milky, purplish aperitif...
ferociously fragrant, overtly medicinal,
ever so faintly anesthetizing...
and cooled to a glacial viscosity
in a miniature version...
of the type of vacuum-flask
normally associated
with campsites and schoolrooms...
cast a spell...
which, during the subsequent
60-second interval...
was to be mortally broken.
On three overlapping dramatic timelines...
the following events came to pass.
Monsieur Nescaffier began
his mysterious ritual.
I can neither comprehend nor describe
what occurs behind a kitchen door.
I have always been content
to enjoy the issue...
of an artist's talent without unveiling
the secrets of the chisel...
or the turpentine.
Patrolman Maupassant...
responding to an infrequently
illuminated signal...
delivered a telephone to his superior.
Go ahead.
As you know by now,
we have kidnapped your son...
and absconded to a secure location
which you will never discover.
Release or execute the Abacus...
and the little boy will be safely
returned to your custody.
Failure to do so by sun-up will result
in your son's violent death.
The skylight window
of the makeshift nursery...
which occupies the attic quarters
jimmied ajar.
The getaway and eventual motor pursuit
was rendered vividly...
if, perhaps, a bit fancifully,
in a comic strip...
published the following week.
Though the infamous Ennui gang war...
"Winter Crimewave" had eradicated
a healthy number of thugs and hooligans...
it had also claimed the lives...
of a disgraceful proportion
of innocent citizens.
Due to the surprise capture
of the racketeering accountant...
Albert "the Abacus", in possession
of a valise containing payroll stubs...
for all three of the city's
major syndicates...
the law-abiding community's hopes
for an accelerated resolution...
to the crisis had been renewed.
However, this turn of events had
forcefully rattled the cages...
of the denizens
of the criminal underworld.
For myself, I had failed to recognize
the Abacus...
but as it happened,
I knew the chicken coop.
This is not in the article, by the way.
If I refer to Mr. Howitzer,
do you know who I mean?
Of course. Arthur Howitzer, Jr.
Founder and editor of The French Dispatch.
It was my first week in Ennui
when I suffered the misfortune...
of being arrested
in a drinking establishment...
on the fringes of the Flop Quarter...
along with a number of
newly-found companions.
What was the charge?
You see, people may or may not
be mildly threatened...
by your anger, your hatred,
your pride...
but love the wrong way...
and you will find yourself
in great jeopardy.
In this case, a chicken coop jail cell
for six days straight.
I had no one who cared to rescue me,
and no one who cared to scold me.
And the only local number
committed to my typographic memory was...
Printer's District 9-2211.
While I regret we are unable to publish
either of these specific pieces...
I would be very pleased to consider
other submissions in the future.
Or if you find yourself in Ennui...
I'd never met the man.
I knew how to reach him
only because I wanted a job.
Let's see here.
High school newspaper,
poetry club, drama society.
Wrote the school song.
Words and music.
Junior researcher,
cub reporter, assistant editor.
Fires and murders.
That's how I started.
My father owned the paper, of course.
Bit of sports, bit of crime,
bit of politics.
Shortlisted twice, Best Essays.
Deep South, Midwest, East Coast.
Vast country.
Haven't been there in 20 years.
Not now.
I'm conducting a job interview.
Your writing samples are good.
I re-read them in the taxi.
Have you ever done any book reviews?
You're gonna be in there another few hours
before they process you out.
Read this. Give me 300 words.
I'll pay you 500 francs
minus the 250 I advanced for your bail...
but I'll re-advance that
against cost of living.
Bring me a first draft tomorrow morning...
and however you go about it, Mr. Wright...
try to make it sound like you
wrote it that way on purpose.
Thank you.
No crying.
It came to be known
as the "Night of a Thousand Slugs."
I'm reciting again.
How the Commissaire and his elite team of
experts and analysts...
succeeded so swiftly in determining
the location of the kidnappers' lair...
I just don't know.
The tools of the trade, I suppose.
But succeed they did.
Who were they?
It was later revealed.
A hired crew of bandits and gunmen
imported by the ranking bosses...
of the Ennui rackets
and their network of underworld middlemen.
Chauffeur Joe Lefvre,
a once almost promising instrumentalist.
Stetson, Spinster,
and Hieronymus Von Altman,
Dutch masterminds.
Marconi Brutelli,
the Mediterranean anarchist.
A pair of hooligans, estranged cousins.
A trio of showgirls, all junkies.
Plus one small, resourceful prisoner...
determined to free himself and
reduce taxpayer expense.
What's that noise?
Air bubbles in the radiator pipes.
It's pressurized.
Sounds like Morse code.
Vaguely, maybe.
I'm Gigi, by the way.
What's your name?
I'm not gonna tell you that.
This is a felony.
You're not a criminal.
You're just a mixed-up showgirl.
- Ha.
- Ha, yourself.
Shut up.
What color eyes do you have?
Sing me a lullaby.
I'm scared.
Are you asleep?
The Commissaire adored Gigi
with all his voluminous heart.
However, his mind, that exceptional
machine for the detection...
and investigation of criminal activity,
had been whirring since dinnertime.
And he was in a condition
of dire calorific depletion.
Nescaffier, back in the field
for the first time in six years...
came prepared to dazzle.
The change was instantaneous.
Even as the faintest hints of the aromas
of the great chef's kitchen...
ribboned into
the Commissaire's nostrils...
he began to envision and
formulate a multi-pronged battle-plan.
To start...
Deviled eggs of the precinct canary...
served in shells of its own meringue.
Poached with plums
from the mayor's rooftop arbor.
minced lamb bon-bons in pastry wrappers.
Blas oyster soup.
A magnificent city-park pigeon hash.
...tabac pudding with quadruple cream.
May I interrupt with a question?
- Please.
- Forgive me.
Just permit me to dog-ear
the page. Mentally.
I beg your pardon.
You've written about the American negro,
the French intellectual...
- the Southern romantic...
- And the anti-negro.
The anti-negro.
Scripture, mythology, folklore,
true crime, false crime...
the ghost story, the picaresque,
the bildungsroman.
But more than anything,
over all these years...
you've written about food.
Who? What? Where? When? How?
Valid questions...
but I learned as a cub stringer,
never, under any circumstance...
if it is remotely within your power
to resist the impulse...
never ask a man why.
It tightens a fellow up.
I apologize,
- but I'm gonna hold you to it...
- Torture.
...if you'll agree.
Self-reflection is a vice
best conducted in private or not at all.
I'll answer your question out of
sheer weariness...
but I truly don't know
what I'm about to say.
There is a particular sad beauty...
well-known to the companionless foreigner
as he walks the streets of his adopted...
preferably moonlit, city.
In my case, Ennui, France.
I have so often...
I have so often shared
the day's glittering discoveries with...
no one at all.
But always, somewhere along
the avenue or the boulevard...
there was a table set for me.
A cook, a waiter, a bottle,
a glass, a fire.
I chose this life.
It is the solitary feast that has been
very much like a comrade...
my great comfort and fortification.
Do you remember
where you placed the bookmark?
Of course, silly goose. "Meanwhile."
"Meanwhile, across the street..."
Hold your fire! Hold your fire!
During a lull in the skirmish,
an ancient concierge...
veteran of two wars,
limped across the street...
to deliver an enigmatic message.
I'm speaking to the leader of the gang
of kidnappers on the top floor.
Do you have a working kitchen
in your lair?
My son needs a snack.
Allow us to send in our precinct cook...
along with some supplies and provisions.
He will prepare a supper
of sufficient proportions...
to feed you and all your accomplices.
We already ate.
Is it an underling...
or Nescaffier himself?
Blackbird pie.
Required, of course,
to sample each item...
the chef ate the deathly poison.
For the little boy.
Write down the recipe.
But Nescaffier survived...
thanks to the extreme fortitude...
bolstered and braced, season upon season,
by the richest, most potent plates...
pans, and sauce pots...
of his almost superhuman stomach.
He knew well, of course...
Gigi loathed and despised
the radish in all its forms...
with a deep, unbridled passion,
and had never so much as touched one...
or even spoken the word,
during his entire young lifetime.
However, as it happened...
the chauffeur hated radishes, too.
Take the wheel!
Perhaps the most stirring and startling
phenomenon witnessed...
over the trajectory of that
protracted dinner date was this...
A delicious irony. Monsieur Albert...
accountant to the demi-monde
and remote cause
of the entire spectacular contretemps...
had been forgotten in the chicken coop
from Thursday dinner
to Monday breakfast...
and had very nearly starved in his cell.
It was only the convalescent
Monsieur Nescaffier himself...
who retained the presence
of mind to prepare the prisoner...
an omelette la policier,
which he delivered warm...
wrapped in a day-old search warrant.
The Abacus ate well that morning.
A word from Gemini tooth powder.
It was supposed to be
an article about a great chef.
It is in part.
For the Tastes and Smells section...
I understand.
The assignment was perfectly clear.
Perhaps, you fail to grasp...
that I was shot at
and hand-grenaded against my will.
I only asked to be fed,
and was, marvelously,
as I described in some detail.
Nescaffier only gets one line of dialogue.
Well, I did cut something he told me.
It made me too sad.
I could stick it back in, if you like.
What did he say?
Martin... Martin...
Guillaume Martin.
They had a flavor.
I beg your pardon?
The toxic salts in the radishes...
they had a flavor.
Totally unfamiliar to me.
Like a bitter, moldy, peppery...
spicy, oily kind of...
I never tasted that taste in my life.
Not entirely pleasant...
extremely poisonous...
but still, a new flavor.
That's a rare thing at my age.
I admire your bravery, Lieutenant.
I'm not brave.
I just wasn't...
in the mood to be...
a disappointment to everybody.
I'm a foreigner, you know.
This city is full of us, isn't it?
I'm one myself.
Seeking something missing.
Missing something left behind.
Maybe with good luck...
we'll find what eluded us...
in the places we once called home.
That's the best part of the whole thing.
That's the reason for it to be written.
I couldn't agree less.
Well, anyway, don't cut it.
Are we all here?
I guess you know.
It was a heart attack.
No crying.
Is somebody coming to take him away?
There's a strike at the morgue.
Who was with him?
He was alone.
Reading birthday telegrams.
Don't light the candles.
He's dead.
I'll have a slice.
Me, too.
We need to draft something. Who wants it?
We've got a file.
I'm working on the art.
That's him.
Let's write it together.
Write what?
The obituary.
Arthur Howitzer, Jr.
Born in North Kansas...
10 miles from the geographical center
of the United States.
Mother died when he was five.
Son of a newspaper publisher,
founder of this magazine.
The French Dispatch,
previously known as Picnic.
A largely unread Sunday supplement
to the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun.
It began as a holiday.
Is that true?
Sort of.
What happens next?