Day 293: Isle of Dogs 2018

Day 293
Wednesday 18 April 2018 11.48pm
Isle of Dogs  2018

A Wes Anderson Film

What a wonderful experience. A must-see film. I think only one or two – maybe three or four – new films each year fall into that category. A must-see film is a film where your life will be better or just different because of the experience. Like The Princess Bride or Apocalypse Now. Like Citizen Kane or Cinema Paradiso. Like Nuit et brouillard or 2001: A Space Odyssey. You may not agree with me that it is a must-see film but it is important to see it if I think it is important to see it. Like Paradise Road or Tokyo Story or Schindler’s List. Like L’avventura or Pierrot le fou (or Breathless). Or Girl, Interrupted. Some films express an aspect of life in such a moving way, or with such an adventurous spirit, they deserve to be seen. Some because they have succeeding in breaking the rules  and in doing so are redefining film narrative.  Others because they are saying something so powerful, or so rarely able to be expressed.

[A tanget: As horrible as A Clockwork Orange is, it is one of the most unforgettable films ever made. There aren’t too many films that are warnings against limiting the punishment allowed to be exacted on despicable human beings. For all the violence and disturbing images, it’s a film that demands limitations on how humans choose to treat and punish people who have committed the most incomprehensible violence against other human beings.]

Isle of Dogs is a must-see for many reasons, none of which I will spell out right now. I’m so glad that my Dad was pushing to see this film because after seeing the style of animation in the trailer, and not finding the clips very amusing, I wouldn’t have gone to see it by myself. But, my lifelong policy has been that I will see any film if someone else tells me they want to see it with me. I’ll go to any film of any rating. It’s all part of learning more about the things in life which make people tick. It’s particularly true (for me) of people who work in other departments of filmmaking and get the chance to possibly direct just one film in their life. When that happens I want to know, so what was it about this film that drew you to it? There’s an essay, maybe even a thesis in first films, and why they chose to film and make that story into their first film. So, here was an example of something that didn’t interest me outwardly, but which I accidentally discovered last week in the March 26, 2018 issue of The New Yorker, was directed by Wes Anderson. I love reading Anthony Lane’s reviews, and because I had no intention of seeing the film, scanned his review quickly – suddenly stopped reading – and then decided because Anthony Lane was making overtly positive comments I’d make sure that my father and I didn’t miss this one. [Strangely, because I watched (1963) last night, I desperately wanted to watch The Player (Robert Altman) tonight and compare the two films. I almost talked myself out of seeing Isle of Dogs.]

Wes Anderson is one of the most unusual directors working in film over the last two decades. I saw his first major feature film, Rushmore, and enjoyed it enormously. It showed a man in his late-twenties with an unusual way of approaching, and telling, stories. I though a lot of The Royal Tenenbaums was amazing, but as a whole I found it didn’t quite work for me. The same with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited and more recently The Grand Budapest Hotel – which I probably liked the most of everything of his I’ve seen until now. I tend to love the first half of his films and then find I tire in the second half. It’s probably just me.

I think of him as an off-the-wall director, and I don’t always get to see his films on the big screen, although I think the only major one I’ve missed, looking down his list of films, is Moonrise Kingdom. Actually, the only other one I missed was The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I own on blu-ray but haven’t yet seen. And I didn’t get to see his first feature film, Bottle Rocket, either.

With Isle of Dogs, his second animated feature film, he produces (another) one of the most unusual films I have ever seen. I am very curious to know where Wes Anderson’s idea came from because it’s a bizarre mix of styles. Whatever the inspiration it is brilliantly conceived and brilliantly executed. But why set it in Japan, without subtitles? And have the dogs bark in English, without subtitles? And why only translate the Japanese into English if an interpreter is handy?