Wes Anderson’s new movie pays tribute to canines and Kurosawa
Isle of Dogs unleashed; Richie Culver’s Hull show; Unknown Mortal Orchestra; gory story The Alienist; tyrants, dictators and despots; Aids crisis explored; David Peace back in Japan; Jack White’s third solo outing; design genius Milton Glaser; Irvine Welsh’s Dead Men’s Trousers; Reggie Yates on Grenfell
→ Wes Anderson has made a film about dogs. Admittedly, these are Andersonian dogs: stop-frame animation canines who live on an island of trash outside a fictional Japanese city called Megasaki, banished there by a corrupt mayor because of a fictional doggy disease, and who speak with the soft, wry delivery of some of the director’s most frequent collaborators — Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum — because those are indeed the actors who voice them.
This is Anderson’s second foray into stop-frame animation after 2009’s exquisite Fantastic Mr Fox, and as usual he is leaving no corner uncut: the crew for Isle of Dogs numbered 670 with 70 of those alone on puppets. The sets, inspired by Edoperiod woodblocks, are stunning; the costumes — teeny-tiny space suits, sailor-girl school uniforms, kimonocum-lab-coats — are adorable. Even the rubbish dump on which the dogs live in rabid squalor is a little bit divine. And while the makers of the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War might be crowing about their star haul (Iron Man! Dr Strange! Black Panther! Spider-Man! Groot!), Anderson’s is also pretty cosmic in hip Hollywood terms: alongside Norton, Murray and Goldblum you might also catch the dulcet tones of Scarlett Johansson, Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel,
Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Liev Schrieber, Frances McDormand and Yoko Ono (though you probably won’t catch Anjelica Huston, who plays “mute poodle”).
And this being a Wes Anderson film about dogs, it is both a film about dogs, and also a love-note to the Japanese film-makers by whom Anderson and his band of co-writers, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi Nomura, are fascinated; even the fact of being a band of co-writers is a nod to the scriptcreating habits of Akira Kurosawa. But just when you’re steeling yourself to work your way through the catalogue of pertinent Kurosawa films that aren’t Rashomon or Seven Samurai (Drunken Angel, The Bad Sleep Well, High and Low and Stray Dog), before moving on to the monster movies of Ishirô Honda and the post-war works of Yasujirô Ozu, remember that this is also a sweet film about a little boy looking for his lost dog. And that can be enough.
Isle of Dogs is out on 30 March
King (Bob Balaban) and Boss (Bill Murray) with new pal Atari (Koyu Rankin) in Isle of Dogs