Isle of Dogs, written by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, Kunichi Nomura
You may find that this motion picture has all the needed ingredients for a magnificent work – outré humor, a phenomenal director, a collective of remarkable writers and a phenomenal cast:
Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Murray Abraham ( winner of the Academy Award, as so many of the aforementioned, for his terrific rendering of Salieri, in Amadeus by Milos Forman) and a few other excellent artists.
One would wonder why is Yoko Ono present in this list of Joy, but this is where the undersigned needs to state that she is just one element that detracts from the pleasure of hearing all the other titans and there are others.
The themes are worthwhile, from animal rights and the abuse that dogs and others suffer at the hands of humans, to environment protection and the fouling that the same people cause, to the dangers posed by robots, drones, artificial intelligence in general and vicious politicians.
But to come to the conclusion early on, this viewer did not enjoy the feature, with the exception of the humor and the joy provided by the voices of the list of cinema Gods and Goddesses that is so long and outstanding.
The outbreak of a disease is another one of the subjects of mediation that this motion picture brings to the fore and this is so creditable, for we have concerns in the present, from the periodic outbreaks of Ebola to the danger that one bird flu or pig disease might transmute and become an epidemic among human beings…
After all, the 1918 Spanish Influenza has killed more people than World War I, there is the danger that the next one could be ever more deadly, seeing as travel is so easy and widespread.
All dogs are sent to Trash Island, where the poor animals have to search hard to find a scrap of food, they are more than slim, affected by sneezing, high temperatures, red eyes, bad temper which can become villainous, ferocious and other symptoms of disease and most of all hunger.
In one tragic – comic scene, a package is dropped on the island, something like a big bag that is opaque and makes the packs of dogs gathered to see any new arrival on their territory guess on the contents.
They open the trash and inside they see the remains of some fish can, a few traces of other vague remains of food, after they had spoken about the merits of fighting, having decided that they need to know what is inside, before the two groups fight.
Once they see the disgusting, desolate content, they say…ok, it is worth fighting for, which is both amusing and sad, given how low they have to descend to get some worms in their bellies.
“How can you bring puppies in this world” – this what Nutmeg, the female dog whose voice belongs to Scarlett Johansson, when talking to Chief aka Bryan Cranston abbot their ordeal on this island.
In the middle of this depressing, heartbreaking scenery, an airplane crash lands, bringing in the middle of the dogs a…dog owner who tries to find, save and bring back his former pet, Spots.
The latter has to face a pack of rather aggressive four legged creatures, led by Gondo aka Harvey Keitel, who talks about the rumors that they are cannibal dogs, fist denying it, then explaining that it has only happened once.
They used to have an alpha male, the leader of their pack that was sick, he was going to die, in pain, therefore, it was better for him and besides, there is next to no food on this damned Trash Island.
Somehow, the fact that this motion picture has won the Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it was also nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear for the Best Film, proves the fact that this is an unusual, outré, off the beaten track production, although mentioning the name of Wes Anderson is enough for the audience to expect…the unexpected.
The mirth can be candid; the joys brought by the film depend on one’s liking for animation – not a favorite for this cinephile – a penchant for the absurd, Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco kind of humor.
There are some wonderful lines:
“Rex: I used to sleep on a lamb's wool beanbag next to an electric space heater. That's my territory, I'm an *indoor* dog.
King: I starred in twenty-two consecutive Doggy Chow commercials. Look at me now, I couldn't land an audition.
Boss: I was the lead mascot for an undefeated high school baseball team. I lost all my spirit, I'm depressing.
Duke: I only ask for what I've always had, a balanced diet, regular grooming, and a general physical once a year.
Chief: You're talking like a bunch of housebroken... pets.