Wes Anderson’s ninth feature film is his second foray into animation following the superb Fantastic Mr. Fox. Isle of Dogs is set in a Japan twenty years in the future where a dog flu outbreak has resulted in all dogs being exiled to trash island. But young Atari Kobayashi sets out to find his beloved pet and in the process stir up investigation into the mayor’s motives for the trash island decree.
Anderson is known for his idiosyncratic style, dry intellectual humour and mathematical precision in framing his subjects. Isle of Dogs takes all of these traits to the next level. The story is quirky and features his usual traits of narrators, flashbacks and title cards. The humour is dry and it feels like more would be noticed on further viewings. And as it is an animated feature, it allows Anderson complete control over the frame and positioning of characters and I suspect rulers were involved in their placement.
Perhaps the quirkiest most idiosyncratic decision is that he has taken the decision to have all Japanese people in the film speak their native tongue with no subtitles. In some circumstances the narrator or other characters will translate, but in others you have to decide on their meaning based on the cues on screen. It works surprisingly well but along with other aspects of the film has raised the question of cultural appropriation. A discussion I’m not qualified enough to have but one I will point out if you want to investigate further.
In summary, as a fan of Anderson, it’s absolute genius. Inventive, funny and beautiful. If you haven’t discovered his films yet I strongly suggest you do. For anyone interested here is his back catalogue…
Bottle Rocket (1996)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)