Isle of Dogs * * * * (2018) Berlinale 2018

February 15th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Wes Anderson | Jason Schwartzman | With: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton | Comedy Animation | US

Twenty years into the future in an isle in the Japanese archipelago five dogs are relegated to the scrap heap quite literally – a landfill site is no place for man’s best friend. In this richly rendered riotously rhythmic animation, Wes Anderson’s social satire says: man may be master of the Universe but behind every good man is his dog. And every dog here certainly has its day.

ISLE OF DOGS is undeniably a Wes Anderson masterpiece, the finely groomed stop-motion animation chockfull of current day themes such as fake news and Asian ‘flu. The canines are canny and convincing each with its own cute character; in an entirely fitting celebration for the Chinese Year of the Dog. Scenes of sushi preparation, human kidney transplant and Dog flu serum injection are delightfully impressive, all set to Alexandre Desplat’s tick-tocking score.

With its screenplay by Anderson co-scripting with Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartman and Kunuchi Nomura, ISLE OF DOGS’ densely complex narrative beguiles and bamboozles, imagining a day when a dose of Dog Flu dispatches our furry friends to fend for themselves offshore, whereupon the mayor’s 12 year-old adopted son Atari, flies in to retrieve his beloved white guard-dog, Spots (voiced by Liev Schreiber). Delicate artwork raises a paw to Japanese masters Hagusai and Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki’s glowing Anime.

Naturally, dogs are pack animals led here by Edward Norton as Rex, with the runty Duke voiced by Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban is King; Bill Murray, Boss – and Scarlett Johansson the flirty blonde show-bitch Nutmeg. Tilda Swinton plays the TV-watching, Oracle with Harvey Keitel as Gondo. Brian Cranston’s Chief bings up the rear as the black stray who won’t obey. Meanwhile, Greta Gerwig plays a perky student protester, decrying the powers that be on the Japanese mainland.

There is never a dull moment in this often barking mad delight, all bristling with whip-smart wit and deadpan humour that Wes does so well. MT

 BERLINALE FESTIVAL 15-25 February 2018 | SILVER BEAR | BEST DIRECTOR

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