Monday, 9 July 2018

Isle of Dogs /犬ヶ島 / Inugashima

Wes Anderson's animations have developed their own very unique style. It's partly the ugliness of the stop-motion, but it's mostly the rhythms. The comic timing is the most charming thing about these films, established firmly in The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The deadpan humour is absolutely brilliant, delivered by a stellar cast including the likes of Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton and Bryan Cranston. This may be the most entertaining thing Yoko Ono has ever done, beside perhaps interrupting John Lennon and Chuck Berry’s duet with her weird croaky noises. 

This film is a strange one. Japanese dogs are sent to a trash island after paranoia spreads about canine flu. However, one little Japanese boy, ward of the mayor who masterminded the doggy exile, sets out to rescue his dog. 

Oddly, there's a lot of hilarious Japanese in this film, which is probably funny only to Japanese speakers. I loved the little montage of the scientific analyses. On the other hand, the film is mostly a somewhat condescending free-wheeling depiction of Japan, all sumo wrestlers, yakuza and taiko drummers. I don't know why they didn't bother to ask for some Japanese names - the main boy is called 'Atari' for some reason, and there's a bunch of Rexes and Spots but not a Pochi in sight. A bit bizarre given these are meant to be Japanese dogs.

I absolutely loved the adventure of the boy and the five main dogs, with their deadpan storytelling interrupted by getting each other's ticks off or sneezing. Their tendency to look at the camera sometimes is marvellous, and dogs are just inherently funny. The exchange student with the big blonde afro is much less entertaining as a subplot. The ending is also random and confused, but it's not as though the plot was the main purpose of this film.

I can't see this being a big hit. Anderson fans will of course watch it and a few animation fans will be interested, but it's probably way too weird and ugly to get a new audience on board. At least Fantastic Mr. Fox had some degree of cuteness. Well, this one does have the most adorable little puppies, in fairness. And I guess some of the other doggies are cute. Probably all Anderson's animated films will eventually become cult classics in some circles. But whether they'll be able to recoup their costs enough that many more can be made I do not know.

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