Film Review: Isle of Dogs

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Film still from Odean.com

Isle of Dogs
Dir: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Live Schreiber, Greta Gerwig, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson,Tilda Swinton, Yoko Ono.
105mins | Drama, Comedy, Animation | PG

A trip to a Wes Anderson film should never be missed. Though he has often been billed as a “hipster director”, his films do have mainstream appeal, though always in his own unique way.

Within his second venture into stop motion animation, Isle of Dogs is a love letter to the cinema and culture of Japan. Anderson has always confessed his admiration for the country and here is the glowing evidence. There are many debates that the film triggers: Is it for children? Does it appropriate Japanese culture? What is it’s real message (there are many choices)? Children would love it, no doubt, but the Japanese have always expressed their gratitude to those who love their culture. Anderson knows what he is doing and there is never any theft seen here. At all.

With its rugged edges, this proves to be both a beautiful and striking work that will no doubt, get an Oscar nom for Animation next year. The story is simple, though effective. Set 20 years in the future in the made up city of Megasaki, struggling with an over populated case of dogs. These animals have diseases and are banished to Trash Island, only these dogs can talk (their barks have been translated into English) and the Major’s nephew tires to fly to the island to find his own pupper.

This story resonates a lot today with the themes of contamination, corruption, poisoning and tolerance. Although Islamic culture could have created a stance on dogs in this way, the Japanese setting speaks more about regarding their own dealings with health. This is a charming film with snazzy dialogue, a pounding score from Alexandre Desplat (with some Prokofiev, surpassingly not Peter and the Wolf) and brilliant voice acting from some Anderson veterans, both new and old. The figures almost have a doll like dirty quality, as if Jan Švankmajer and the Quay Brothers got a hold of them first (two titans in the stop motion that you must check out).

Some might be creeped out by the animation. Granted the eye balls, are less odd than in other films, the humour should diminish any uncanny valley troupes the film has. My only creep out were the puppies who cried and gurgled like human babies.

This is a breath taking film that people of all ages will simply lap up (there was a lack of dog puns in the film, so I must make my own).

Brimming with creativity, sensational stop motion.

Rating: 4 stars

Chapter Arts Centre continue their Wes Anderson season with more screenings of Isle of Dogs, along with Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou & Fantastic Mr Fox

Isle of Dogs Exhibition, featuring sets and clay models from the film is on show at 180 Strand, London till 8th April. Free admission.

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