24 September 2018

A Dog Eat Dog World

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The day that I got my dog she ran around the house as though her tail was on fire before finally jumping up onto my Dad's lap to say 'hello'. He'd been reluctant to get her in the first place and so I feel that this was her way of setting things straight and assuring him that everything would be alright. She sat upright, made eye contact, they had their moment, and then she bit him right on the tit. What a good dog. I couldn't love her more! In fact, doesn't everybody love dogs? Even Hitler loved his dog and by all accounts he's gone down in history as quite the rotter. Director Wes Anderson's latest is the stop-motion movie Isle Of Dogs which some astute film-goers have cleverly noted sounds a little like 'I love dogs'. Kind of like nosh it sounds a bit like no shit I guess. Set in Japan in the not too distant future, the film tells of a prejudiced leader that banishes all dogs to a nearby island after they all catch a canine flue. Sadly this island is also where they dump all their rubbish because otherwise I'm pretty sure that they could have made a fucking fortune with the tourist industry. People pay to eat their lunches in cat cafes already and so who wouldn't pay to holiday on an island of dogs? I'd much rather go for a nature walk whilst surrounded by man's best friend than try to enjoy the soup of the day as one cat wretches up a fur ball and another proudly licks its fucking arse.

Sadly the mayor that has made it his mission to get rid of all of the dogs has decided to lead by example by getting rid of his young nephew's dog first. We're told that the boy's parents were killed in an accident and so he's since become his Uncle's responsibility. If I was that kid I think I'd side with the dog and threaten my dickhead Uncle with a bread-knife if he came anywhere near me or my dog. The boy, however, takes the different approach of stealing a plane and flying to the 'Trash Island' where the dogs are dumped in order to get his own pet back. I should point out that the mayor's scientific rivals claim that they have a cure for the canine flu and so this banishment of the dogs isn't as practical as it might sound. Instead, it's because the mayor and his family have traditionally preferred cats and for various reasons have harboured a long-standing grudge against dogs. I know that most peoples families are fucked up. At least one of my Mum's cousins lives his life believing it to be the 1980's because his father in law attempted to murder him and left him with permanent brain damage. But I'd rather come from a family in which one of the sanest members has posters of Cyndi Lauper on his wall and wears tissue boxes for shoes than one that has beef with dogs! Clearly, this is something the young boy of the film believes too as he crashes his plane onto an island so full of shit that it could be confused for the Welsh town of Rhyl.

Despite the prominent role that the young boy plays, it's actually a pack of 'Alpha Dogs' that takes the centre of the movie. Believing themselves all to be pack leaders they insist on voting on almost every scenario they encounter and then follow it through no matter how fucking stupid or suicidal it might brexit... I mean, be. Of this pack, however, the one that stands out is the Bryan Cranston voiced Chief who claims that whilst the others were all previously pets he was the only dog to have always been a stray. Chief isn't so much house broken as he has broken bad, and although Cranston may no longer be the 'one who knocks', his dog is certainly the one who bites. Quickly the dogs deduce that the young boy is looking for his own pet and so after a quick vote they decide to help him search. Meanwhile, the boy's Uncle has sent out a crack team armed with nets and an army of robot dogs to bring him home. As the film progresses, Chief slowly begins to warm to the boy with Isle of Dogs becoming a sweet adventure movie about a young child and the bond he forms with a dog. Not that this is a cute little Disney film, I should add. Isle Of Dogs might be an animated family film but it's got some pretty intense moments in it. It's not quite at the Cannibal Holocaust-esque levels of grim that Watership Down was, but nor would it be kind enough to have Bambi's Mum shot off-screen.

Within the first few minutes alone two packs of dogs have a fight with one of the animals ending up having its ear bitten off as though Mike Tyson had somehow jumped into the scrum too. In which case, I guess it's lucky that nobody also got raped. Perhaps the most disturbing scene though is one in which we see several live sea-creatures sliced and diced and turned into sushi. After twenty-nine years of loving meat, I've finally become a vegetarian and have been debating in my mind as to whether this means I should give up fish too. After seeing this sequence in this movie I'm telling you for a fucking fact that I'm never eating fish again. Isle Of Dogs does for sushi, what Alien did for eggs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre did for sausages, and Hulk Hogan's porno tape did for sex. Not for me, thank-you-very-much. That shit looked fucking disgusting. In fact, as the film goes on and its authoritarian undertones become more and more prominent, you could be forgiven for thinking that this film isn't really for kids at all. There's a very obvious subtext in how we deal with our 'undesirables' and the entire film essentially builds towards an act of revolution. Isle Of Dogs is definitely suitable for kids but I'd say it's more of a family film than a children's film. Nor is it particularly a comedy which might come as surprise to people familiar with either Wes Anderson's previous films or this film's trailer. I read one review that described it as being more of a 'political thriller for twelve-year-olds' although I'd add that it also happens to be better than most political thrillers to be fair. I know we all love All The Presidents Men but who wouldn't agree that it couldn't be improved by an all dog remake?!

As a huge Wes Anderson fan, I loved everything that Isle Of Dogs had to offer and even a day later I'm struggling to shake the imagery from out of my head. In the past, his films have been criticised for being 'too quirky', although with this film I hope that even his biggest detractor would admit that the word they meant to use was 'original'. Since Fantastic Mr Fox all of Anderson's live-action films have kind of felt like stop-motion and so I'm sure you can imagine the level of detail he gets into every frame here. Some people have claimed that aspects of the film are insensitive to Japanese culture, however not being from Japan I can't say that I'm expert enough to have an opinion on this. I know that a Japanese chap was involved in the movie to ensure the authenticity of the culture and from my outsider perspective there was no denying that the country was depicted in a completely affectionate way. One of the arguments is that by having the Japanese characters speak Japanese without subtitles you essentially distance the audience from them. Despite not understanding the dialogue, I think you'd have to be pretty dense to fail to understand the emotions and motives of all of the non-English speaking characters though. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou is still my favourite of Anderson's movies however the ambition of this movie is to be admired alone. It's a film that dares to be smarter than it might initially seem and with an imaginative and interesting structure that reveals hidden information and depth like a beautiful dog slowly popping out its lipstick. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.

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