Dog days and an owl that hoots


LOOK into my eyes: Oracle, the psychic pug (Tilda Swinton), gets her secret kicks from television. Photograph courtesy

YOU DON’T HAVE to speak Japanese to get completely hooked into the maverick possibilities cast out by the story of Isle of Dogs. You don’t even need to speak ‘dog’. This Wes Anderson animated tale of a society gone anti-dog is a fantastic spoof on the political idiosyncrasies of a social structure. And all the elements are here, the love interest, the adventure, the wise sages and the hapless victims. Only everyone who matters is a dog. With a couple of teenagers tossed in for good measure.

Picture the scenario: a disease called snout fever has beset the society. The political grownups in their questionable wisdom and hard hearts elect to banish all the chaps with infected snouts from society, by casting them into a world of rubbish. And who are the chaps in question? Dogs, of course. Big ones, small ones, hairy ones, cute ones, ugly ones and ones that bite. They’re dogs who are used to living it up as pets and this new adventure is prickly with discontent and discontentment in a dystopia that’s filled with bad chemicals and smelly karma.

Enter a young orphan, Atari, who has relatives in high places but a sad history that involves a good dog and one kidney. In short, it’s a rescue mission that involves chicanery and corruption of the highest order. To say nothing of an exchange student from Ohio with a delightful blond Afro. With machines and posters shrieking with Japanese political diatribes and power it’s a rollicking adventure, which will find you laughing out loud and sometimes weeping at the shenanigans of these fabulously crafted hounds.

The animation is tight and well developed, and it doesn’t pretend to be ‘real’. There’s a charmingly stilted element to the material which at no point beguiles you. This is make believe all the way, in the most wild, lurid and charming manner possible. But it’s intelligent make believe which reflects on the outsider status of a stray in a way that resonates with the xenophobic energies of our world.

As is the wont, however, of Japanese animation, the sound track is huge and clattery and the light and dark contrasts are severe. The story is hard edged and shrill, but the details that involve everything from the preparation of a dish with wasabi that is strong enough to kill a whale, to a kidney transplant, to say nothing of many madcap chases and fights involving teeth and dust, will blow you away. Not to mention the hooting owl.

  • Isle of Dogs is directed by Wes Anderson and features a cast headed by F. Murray Abraham, Kozue Akimoto, Bob Balaban, Chris Benz, Edward Bursch, Roman Coppola, Bryan Cranston, Erica Dorn, Greta Gerwig, Jeff Goldblum, Kara Hayward, Anjelica Huston, Elaiza Ikeda, Ikunosuke, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, Taichi Kodama, Ryûhei Matsuda, Shõta Matsuda, Frances McDormand, Shin Mononobe, Kiyotaka Mizukoshi, Nijirõ Murakami, Bill Murray, Ryuhei Nakadai, Chinami Narikawa, Mari Natsuki, Yõjirõ Noda, Kunichi Nomura, Edward Norton, Karin Okoso, Yoko Ono, Alex Orman, Koyu Rankin, Jake Ryan, Liev Schreiber, Luli Shioi, Fisher Stevens, Tilda Swinton, Jun Takahashi, Akira Takayama, Gen Ueda, Courteney B. Vance, Ken Watanabe, Frank Wood, J. Wurster, Takayuki Yamada and Satoshi Yamazaki. It is written by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Kunichi Nomura and Jason Schwartzman. Produced by Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales and Scott Rudin, it features creative input by Alexandre Desplat (music), Tristan Oliver (photography), Edward Bursch, Ralph Foster and Andrew Weisblum (editing), Douglas Aibel and Kunichi Nomura (casting) and Paul Harrod and Adam Stockhausen (production design). Release date: June 22 2018.

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