6 design secrets behind Wes Anderson’s ‘the French Dispatch’ set


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For design lovers, a new film by Wes Anderson is a cause for celebration and an opportunity to grab ideas for decorating your own home. The director is renowned for his involvement in the production design and set decoration of his nostalgic films, overseeing everything from color palettes to the selection of furniture, artwork and all the minutiae that goes with it. evoke the appearance of a bygone era. The Oscar nominee’s designer eye is so beloved that it inspired an Instagram account and a coffee table book, Accidentally Wes Anderson, with images drawn from the crowds of real places so incredibly picturesque that they should to be imaginary sets in his films.

The different editors of French expedition, the fictional magazine from Wes Anderson’s latest film.

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His latest film, The French dispatch, transports viewers to post-war France, bringing to life a collection of stories from the latest issue of a New York-style American magazine published in a fictional French town. In the film, the real French town of Angoulême replaces the imaginary village of Ennui-sur-Blasé (translation: Ennui-sur-Blasé).

The film features Bill Murray as the Kansas-born editor of the French expedition, alongside a troop including Tilda swinton, Timothée Chalamet, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Owen Wilson and Benicio del Toro. But perhaps the biggest star of them all is the epic ensemble, which will no doubt spawn a run on vintage French decor. We chatted with film set designer Adam Stockhausen and set designer Rena DeAngelo to get a glimpse of how they got that francized look of Anderson.

the French shipping office
The magazine office.

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They laughed at classic movies

At the start of each production, Anderson gives his team a list of movies to watch for design clues. For The French dispatch, they looked The red balloon—The short film from 1956 in which post-war Paris, depicted and graying, comes to life in the form of a bouquet of dazzlingly colored balloons. “We loved the jewelry tones and pops of color,” says Stockhausen, who mixed black-and-white scenes from the film with others in a retro palette. “Especially the citron, which we used for a bright yellow coffee, Le Sans Blague. Then we started bleeding yellow everywhere, from cars to storefronts. And then other jewelry tones like greens, burgundy, and dark blues started to creep in. “

Other movies on Anderson’s Inspiration List for The French dispatch: M by Jacques Tation Uncle (the shaky office building that houses the magazine is a reference to Monsieur Hulot’s dilapidated house in this film), Orson Welles’ The trial, that of Jean Luc Godard Male Female, by François Truffaut The 400 shots, ’50 era black The sweet smell of success, and the classic Screwball comedy his daughter friday. “It’s a great list,” says DeAngelo.

French art gallery
An art gallery at The French dispatch filled with IRL flea market finds.

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They bought real French chips, and not just in Paris

DeAngelo spent six months browsing antique shops and flea markets across France in search of everything from furniture to vintage copper pots and pans to the scene in which a food writer (Jeffrey Wright) portrays a post chef. legendary police force (Stephen Park) for the magazine. The decorator started shopping at the Saint Ouen flea market in Paris, but quickly understood the small markets where vendors in big cities used to buy their supplies. “We had a budget so we had to find deals,” she says, “and we found them in distant markets in places like Le Mans and Chartres that my amazing French team knew. She also hit “the large flea market in Bordeaux on the Place des Quinconces in November”, and in Angoulême, she discovered Denis Gargoulie, estate liquidator, with a huge warehouse full of French antiques.

Some of them even returned to the United States: “I came home with a lot of very thick vintage French linen,” says DeAngelo, “plus a pair of leather armchairs and the Victorian sofa from the scene in the house. Cadazio gallery, that one day I will be covered in a velvet-toned jewel, but for now it is sitting in my garage.

model for electric chair in the French dispatch
An electric barley twist chair, created especially for the film.

Rena De Angelo

They got turned furniture and barley galore

“We continued to find these tables in flea markets that had a barley twist detail on the legs,” says Stockhausen. “Wes kept loving them, and they kept appearing in the movie. They’re everywhere if you start looking for them. At the magazine office, all the writers’ desks have turned their legs. And the Twist Barley even makes an appearance on an electric chair in a comically gruesome prison scene starring a long-incarcerated artist played by Benicio del Toro.

police kitchen scene in the French dispatch
A dining room scene features lighting straight out of film noir.

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They studied vintage lighting

In addition to drawing inspiration from old films, DeAngelo collected period photos of post-war France and studied them for details that would give atmosphere to its decor. “I noticed the lighting in cafes and offices, and we were able to find so many perfect vintage French lighting fixtures,” she says. “Fluorescent lighting and industrial pendant lights give the decor a feeling of authenticity. When you watch the film, look for them especially in the sets of police stations and in cafes. “

airplane model for the French dispatch
A section of a miniature airplane.

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They became small – Dollhouse Small

If the sets of The French dispatch have a storybook feel, that’s because a lot of them were shot in miniature – a classic Anderson camera. Stockhausen creates sets the size of a dollhouse and mixes them with life-size sets, which were shot on location in the town of Angoulême, or made on a huge soundstage outside the town in an old felt factory. “The propmaker Simon Weisse in Berlin has been building miniatures for us for several films now,” says Stockhausen, who collaborated with Anderson on The Grand Hotel Budapest, Moonrise Kingdom, and The island of dogs (and he just finished filming City of asteroids, Anderson’s next film to be shot in Spain.) “We draw them and Simon creates an entirely miniature construction. We mix miniatures with life-size sets. For example, on the French expedition building, we built all the stores below their normal size, but the top of the building and the sign are in miniature. And for airplane scenes [with Tilda Swinton], we designed the entire plane, then selected one part of the main cabin to make it a full-size set, and the rest was a miniature.

Bill Murray home in the French dispatch
Benicio del Toro plays a prison artist.

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They painted by sensation, not by number

Sad to say, getting the color palette of a Wes Anderson movie isn’t a standard affair. That said, he and his team come up with the perfect palette like we all do: by trying out paint samples on the spot. “There’s no painting book where you pick a number,” Stockhausen says. “You kind of feel it and do a sample, watch it and live with it for a few days to see if you really like it. Then you try. And part of the process is to make a mistake and start over. “

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