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Wes Anderson's ISLE OF DOGS (Read 1525 times)
Mar 31st, 2018 at 5:05pm

L.A. Connection   Offline
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Wes Anderson's live action characters have always struck me as cartoonish puppets manipulated by a string-pulling Director (and force fed Wes' trademark arch dialogue). The most enjoyable of his movies so far has been FANTASTIC MR. FOX - why not just cut out the middle-man and actually make the characters puppets? Better yet, the cutesy dialogue seems less forced coming out of the mouths of cute animals (foxes there, and dogs, here).
ISLE OF DOGS is tailor made for Anderson's twee tinker-toy style of filmmaking with lots and lots of toys to play with. Set in future Japan (but, designed with 1960s retro-futurism as the model), the story concerns an outbreak of 'dog flu' which gets the mutts banished to the title wasteland by a corrupt power-hungry politician Kobayashi (voiced by Kunichi Nomura). Our plucky band of canines are voiced by the likes of Bryan Cranston, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johannson and, of course, Wes fave Bill Murray. The Mayor's own dog Spots (Liev Schreiber) ends up on the Isle, and his son Atari (Koyu Rankin) follows to find him. Meanwhile, back on the mainland, plots and counter-plots ensue.

As in most Anderson movies, the 'plot' matters far less than the parade of set pieces and jokey bits. Again, the whole setting and animated nature of ISLE is ideal for the Writer-Director. The sets are fantastically designed and constructed to the minutest detail - the sushi scene alone is said to have taken weeks to perfect. The Production design by Paul Harrod & Adam Stockhausen is fabulous as is the score by Alexandre Desplat (with choice musical selections from Japanese classic cinema and more). If I liked ISLE a bit less than MR. FOX it's because the human characters are more integral here - they can grate like like their live action Anderson counterparts.

It's been a bit amusing to read that the most stinging attacks against ISLE are accusations of 'Cultural Appropriation'. Amusing, because Anderson's Entire Career has been nothing BUT appropriation! His whole approach is the beg, borrow and steal from other filmmakers, musicians, writers and visual artists of all types. So, it's ok to 'appropriate' from European cinema (for an example), but, one has to draw the line at the Japanese? Those critiques aside, a Wes Anderson movie is pretty much critic proof in the sense that you either dig his work or you don't. For myself, I look forward to his next 'real' movie - that is, his next animated feature.
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