Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Film Review: "Isle of Dogs" (2018).


"Atari Kobayashi, you heroically hijacked a Junior-Turbo Prop XJ750 and flew it to the island because of your dog..." This is at the heart of Isle of Dogs. This stop-motion animated comedy film written, produced and directed by Wes Anderson. When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.

In October 2015, after having previously directed the stop-motion animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Anderson announced that he would be returning to the genre with "a film about dogs." Making this his second stop-motion animated venture. "When we made Fantastic Mr. Fox... we shot in East London, a place called Bromley, and on the way there, there was a sign for the turnoff of the road to Isle of Dogs." Anderson explained. "Which is a sort of industrial island on the Thames now... I looked it up and it was supposedly the place where the king kept his hunting dogs and whatever in the 16th century... and that was the beginning of this movie..." Anderson then elaborated: "Then I went to Jason and Roman... and said 'I have this idea of five dogs, Chief, King, Duke, Boss, and Rex, on a garbage dump island..." Anderson said that the film was strongly influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa, Hayao Miyazaki, as well as the stop-motion animated holiday specials made by Rankin/Bass Productions. " Anderson said: "Our first inspiration really was Japanese cinema... and for us it was Kurosawa and Miyazaki... but the other two masters are the woodblock print makers, Hiroshige and Hokusai..." Anderson further commented. "The Japanese setting came entirely because of Japanese cinema. We love Japan, and we wanted to do something that was really inspired by Japanese movies, so we ended up mixing the dog movie and Japan movie together." Like Fantastic Mr. Fox, the film was produced at 3 Mills Studio in East London, England. A total of 1,097 puppets were made for the film. These included ver 500 humans and 500 dogs puppets. Each hero puppet took roughly 16 weeks to make. Perfecting Nutmeg’s puppet alone took over six months. The human characters have up to 53 individually sculpted faces for their various expressions. Each also has up to 48 replacement mouth plugs for the different phonemes of dialogue. Each is individually sculpted and hand painted. Over 3,000 of these faces and mouth plugs were made throughout the film.

The film's ensemble voice cast includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Fisher Stevens, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Frank Wood, Kunichi Nomura and Yoko Ono. The film contained focussed "performances" from the exquisitely detailed figurines that Anderson framed in images as precisely composed as those in his live-action work. As for the voice cast, each provide adept voice work that serves as the basis for some of the most inventive animated set pieces since Nick Park. However, both sides make this gorgeous and fanciful, with a glorious stop-motion animation style of its own.

Isle of Dogs is a delightfully funny feast for the eyes with multi-generational appeal – and it shows Wes Anderson has a real knack for animation. A self-consciously quirky movie that manages to be twee and ultra-hip at the same time, it qualifies as yet another wry, carefully composed bibelot in the cabinet of curios that defines the Anderson oeuvre. In some ways, this is Anderson's most fully realized and satisfying film. Having a quirky auteur like Anderson make a children’s film is a bit like David Byrne, of Talking Heads, recording an album of nursery rhymes produced by Brian Eno. Once you adjust to its stop-and-start rhythms and its scruffy looks, you can appreciate its wit, its beauty and the sly gravity of its emotional undercurrents. The work done by the animation director, Mark Gustafson, by the director of photography, Tristan Oliver, and by the production designers, Paul Harrod and Adam Stockhausen, shows amazing ingenuity and skill, and the music (by Alexandre Desplat, with the usual shuffle of well-chosen pop tunes, famous and obscure) is both eccentric and just right. In an age when everything seems digital, computer-driven and as fake as instant coffee, more and more artists are embracing the old ways of vinyl records, hand-drawn cartoons and painstaking stop-motion character movements. In the style and sensibility, this is really a Wes Anderson film, with little Kurosawa. Although it's missing the darker elements that characterise Kurosawa's films. There you find the whiff of something nihilistic: inexorable savage violence, Shakespearian tragedies, fragility of humanity, and individual redemption through personal responsibility. Gone, too, is any sense of danger. Even the antagonists, who are made to look a touch of corruption, don't seem capable of carrying it out to their most dishonourable. We never really feel the tension of watching the dogs facing real peril. The film certainly has Westernized Kurosawa's themes and aesthetics, and I don't mean the fact that the good animals have American accents. It offers yet another celebration of equality and a lesson on the importance of anti-discrimination and anti-racism. But it does leave you thinking: isn’t it time that children’s films put children first Nonetheless, it's both a delightful amusement and a distillation of the filmmaker's essential playfulness, and as if by magic, everything comes together in a super weird but completely functional story. Anderson injects such charm and wit, such personality and nostalgia — evident in the old-school animation, storybook settings and pitch-perfect use of Burl Ives — that it's easy to forgive his self-conscious touches. Adults will really appreciate oddball whole that Anderson serves up here. It's a one-of-a-kind animation classic.

Simon says Isle of Dogs receives:

No comments:

Post a Comment