Authors and publishers at French mission, Wes Anderson’s new film for a fictional magazine in 1960s France, loves a drink or a few (as is the case with people working in the media). In an opening scene, a server from a street cafe raises five flights upstairs Letter offices to deliver a tray full of aperitifs, absinthe, dry white wine, a cola and an apocalypse to the authors’ scheduling meeting. (If you’re wondering why their coffee server delivers drinks directly, there’s really no reason. Like the label on the wine bottle that literally says “Vin Blanc Sec,” it’s a typical Wes-Anderson quirk.)
The film follows its cast Letter through a series of flashbacks as they discuss stories they have written about their time in the fictional French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé. In all but the last story, the characters barely eat or even look at food. But they definitely drink like fish, and these scales fill some of the funniest and most beautiful scenes in the movie. It is a very satisfying watch for beauticians with a tendency for glassware and excellent narration. Here are three scenes where drinks steal the show.
The jailbreak of champagne
A carefully orchestrated party is canceled with … champagne. Incarcerated artist Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro) makes his newest and most ambitious work debut at a party held in one of his prison rooms. A trio of stringers, caterers and art collectors, merchants and brokers from all over the world sneak into jail just for the party. There, they bring down champagne (but not food; after all, it’s a party in the art world). When the artist’s broker, Julian Cadazio (Adrien Brody), realizes that the priceless mural, painted directly on the walls of the prison building, cannot be sold to anyone, he angrily throws champagne at Rosenthaler’s painting. The two of them start fighting as the prospective buyers see. Dozens of detainees who refused to bribe them to keep the party secret then stormed the scene. Bottles of champagne fly, delicate crystal cups shatter on the floor, chaos ensues and, frankly, it is one of the most fun and carefree moments of the film. Would it be so funny if carafes with water and plastic cups were left for the drink bottles and coupe glasses? Probably not! Theatricality and exaggeration are what make the stage.
The revolution will be hydrated
Disgruntled student protesters gather and discuss at Cafe Sans Blague. The café is described by one author (named after all, Herbsaint Sazerac and played by Owen Wilson) as a neighborhood hangout where “hungry, anxious and reckless” students gather. For students who are described as hungry – at least in the abstract sense – it is funny that we never see them actually eating there. Instead, the cafe is almost full of students discussing drinks. The boys try to reconcile with each other about the coffees and beers that look hot and flat sitting in front of girls who are more fascinated by the conversations that take place around them. A cola rests from a teetotaler who sits quietly and takes the stage. A carafe of white wine on a table gathers concentration. It is these drinks that bring students together and enable them to express their common dissatisfaction (with Ennui local government, their university, adults in general – the usual things that make frustrated young people worse).
The amber Easter egg
An easy shot of the walls at Cafe Sans Blague rewards eagle’s viewers with a little picture of all the sips throughout the movie: The posters advertise the yellow-orange aperitif from the office opening scene as “Ambre Aperitif” – amber aperitif, Thank you, Anderson. a Chablis appearing on other posters throughout Ennui. and absinthe that we see being poured into the same kind of engraved crystal glass in thimble size for different characters at different times. It is a pure aesthetic pleasure for the obsessive designs that are oriented to detail. And the abundance of drinks is like a cheeky nod to the Parisian diet tropes (our creatives literally live in Ennui, barely eating and seeming to survive on coffee and wine).
But as new characters, stories, and settings emerge and are sometimes overwhelmed, these drinks as guides provide a comforting sense of connection to material you may have forgotten or ignored. Critics have noted that Anderson’s films combine references and symbolism in a way that recreates the reading experience a story. The discovery of these Easter eggs is very similar to the joy of the reappearance of a seemingly unusual phrase from the first few chapters of a novel, as different parts of the plot come together in its last pages. In the same way that I re-read my favorite books, I look forward to seeing it again. French mission– aperitif in hand.
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