ISLE OF DOGS (2018) movie review

Wes Anderson rides again in his purest puppy parade to date.
While he famously kills a dog in each of his symmetrical dollhouse menagerie films, here in Isle of Dogs he attempts a mass rescue of dog-kind. Only one little hero pilot willingly risks his life to save his best pal Spot.Wes puts his diorama-prone filmmaking to the test in this puppeted art film including every ounce of classic Andersonism fans have come to expect, though the tone is perhaps even more dry and stoic and the narrative arc less pronounced than his usual fare. Immersing in Japanese culture, Anderson allows for half or more than half of this film’s dialogue to be in Japanese without subtitles. It’s an adjustment at first, but we’ve come to expect nothing less from Wes.And though he worked remotely on this project, he still filmed himself acting out the dog roles, controlled each element of visual story, and offered what can only be called his style to the production. He in his classic tweed suit lends even the mangey dogs living on “Trash Island” a level of posh austerity, a demure grace.

At times watching this felt like watching a Miyazaki film. Perhaps it’s the slower, continuous flow-through pacing or the neutral-toned setting. As it turns out, Miyazaki is just one of the artist influences that Anderson nods to. Also in the list are renowned filmmaker Akira Kurosawa and Charles Schultz of Peanuts cartoon fame.Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblume, Greta Gerwig, Bryan Cranston, Tilda Swinton, and of course Bill Murray are only a few of the voice talents behind the hand-painted hand-designed stop-motion characters.Each one took around 16 weeks to make, with around a thousand interchangeable faces to pinpoint specific expressions within each of the 12 frames per second. It took 670 artists years to create this hour & 41 minute long film. An excellent interview with some of the Isle of Dogs animators can be read here.Two scenes still stand out days later as potential for pop genius and eccentricity unmatched: the sushi scene in which audiences gain point of view from the eyes of a sushi chef as he slices and creates a box lunch, and the kidney transplant scene with a realistic overhead view within an operating room as a surgeon slices, removes, stiches up, and replaces a kidney. It’s surprising and yet fitting in the world as presented by Anderson.

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