India Today - - LEISURE - —Man­jula Pad­man­ab­han

WWes An­der­son’s Isle of Dogs—slated for a June 22 the­atri­cal re­lease in In­dia— is so un­usual it’s al­most a bonus to find that it’s also warm, funny and clever. The char­ac­ters are like­able. The story’s ex­cit­ing. The cen­tral con­flict is about big ideas: an­i­mal rights, cat-lov­ing tyrants, rigged elec­tions, chem­i­cal con­spir­a­cies, dogs, love and truth.

Known for quirky films rang­ing from The Royal Te­nen­baums (2001) to The Dar­jeel­ing Limited (2007), in Isle of Dogs An­der­son uses stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion to tell a story about anti-ca­nine vil­lainy set 20 years in the fu­ture, in Ja­pan and partly in Ja­panese. It’s a crowded nar­ra­tive, full of tex­ture and odd de­lights such as the man­ner­isms of Ja­panese news­cast­ers and the scur­ry­ing of back­ground rats.

When ca­nine flu, or “snout-fever” hits the great city of Me­gasaki, mayor Kobayashi ban­ishes its dogs to Trash Is­land— even Spots, the guard-dog be­long­ing to his or­phaned 12-year-old nephew, Atari.

The nar­ra­tive style is Ex­treme Fast-For­ward with fre­quent ti­tle cards to aid com­pre­hen­sion. Spots, a shaggy white ter­ri­er­mix with blue eyes and a pink nose, voiced by Liev Schreiber, is dumped on the is­land in a tiny locked cage. Shortly there­after, we see his skele­tal re­mains.

Cut to: Rex (Ed­ward Nor­ton), King (Bob Bal­a­ban), Boss (Bill Mur­ray) and Duke (Jeff Gold­blum), four dogs from good homes, for whom life on Trash Is­land is ap­proach­ing hope­less­ness. Their leader is the mav­er­ick Chief (Bryan Cranston), a stray. His black coat is a metaphor for his an­gry, re­sent­ful char­ac­ter. Cut to: the sud­den ap­pear­ance, in a “Ju­nior-Turbo Prop”, of Atari, search­ing for his beloved Spots. Mean­while! Back in Me­gasaki, sci­en­tist Pro­fes­sor Watan­abe has a cure for ca­nine flu. Alas, Kobayashi has him elim­i­nated be­fore the cure can be dis­trib­uted.

But wait! Tracy Walker, a plucky Amer­i­can ex­change stu­dent, sus­pects that the dis­ease is part of a das­tardly plot to ex­ter­mi­nate all dogs. With the help of Watan­abe’s as­sis­tant Yoko Ono (her­self!), she exposes the plot and helps get the cure re­leased. The story is greatly aug­mented by smart sound de­sign and count­less vis­ual treats such as the ro­bot dogs, the trash-com­pact­ing fac­tory and the car­toony de­pic­tion of fight scenes: a cloud of fly­ing paws and claws. The an­i­ma­tion is su­perb. It took two years to com­plete. On­line stream­ing videos show the process in de­tail. Small mod­els of each char­ac­ter are moved a frac­tion, pho­tographed, then moved an­other frac­tion.

“The heart of a dog is a bot­tom­less thing,” says Tilda Swin­ton, who voices the pug Or­a­cle, in a press in­ter­view. The same can be said of this movie. A clue? Say the ti­tle out loud and you’ll hear the words,

“I love dogs.”


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