In one of the opening scenes of Wes Anderson’s latest movie, capital letters poke off the top of a mid-rise building advertising a magazine and its office below. The French Dispatch, about the foreign bureau of a New Yorker-ish American publication, is set in a made-up French town, and much of its action takes place within the rooms of this sign-topped building.
But the office of The French Dispatch is actually an architectural illusion. Though a very real motor scooter drives by on the street below and a grizzled editor can be seen looking out one of its third-floor windows, the sign above, wired for lighting and sturdily mounted on a metal frame, is little more than a few yards wide.
The sign is a scaled model that’s been built by a team of miniature model makers and overlaid on film footage of the actual building in a village somewhere in France. The tops of neighboring buildings in the background are models, too, crafted by a team of talented artisans who’ve managed to persevere amid the increasing digitization of special effects and the rise of computer-generated imagery (CGI).