The first footage of Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch has been released, which sees some of his favourite players get into all sorts of madcap adventures in a fictional post-WWII French town.
The French Dispatch is Anderson's first live-action feature since the Oscar-winning The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014. Described by the filmmaker as a "love letter to journalists" it features an ensemble cast that includes some of his usual suspects like Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Frances McDormand, Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody.
According to the synopsis, the film "brings to life a collection of stories from the final issue of an American magazine published in a fictional 20th-century French city." That fictional city Ennui-sur-Blasé, dressed up in Anderson's particular brand of dream-like, pastel-hues, is actually the city of Angoulême in southwest France – about two hours north of Bordeaux and 40 minutes east of Cognac.
Known as the "balcony of the south-west," thanks to its perched plateau overlooking the Charente valley, Angoulême is famous for its annual comic strip festival, called the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée, which pulls in a quarter of a million visitors in late January.
It's also just 90 minutes south of Paris on the high-speed TGV train but it's a place often overlooked by travellers, although Angoulême has plenty to offer those who do stop by. It's a stone-built town with a dramatic Old Town of cobblestone streets, hidden passageways, an imposing 12th-century cathedral and a charming mix of medieval, Renaissance and neo-classical architecture.
Once the paper-making capital of Europe, its 18th and 19th-century mansions hint at its former power and wealth. Visitors can hire a riverboat, go cycling along the Coulée Verte, and even follow a moonlight heritage walk around the city. The Museum of Angoulême is a great place to discover the history of Charente, with an excellent collection of fossils, beaux-arts and French, Flemish and Belgian paintings.
Angoulême takes comic books very seriously; in addition to the festival, there's a museum for comics, graphic novels and outdoor murals, the Musée de la Bande Dessinéecentre. Even some of the street signs are decorated in speech bubbles and cartoon murals can be found on walls all over the city. It's also a tempting spot for foodies, the covered market of Les Halles is the place to pick up the regional specialities of wine, macaroons, goat's cheese and handmade chocolates.
If you want to know more about what to see and do in Angoulême, see here. The French Dispatch will be in cinemas from 24 July.