Wes Anderson has made a career out of telling shaggy dog stories in artfully designed fashion so it’s only natural he should make that impulse literal with stop-motion animated canine epic Isle of Dogs. Opening this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, the Japan-set tale finds Anderson filtering the work of Akira Kurosawa, Katsushika Hokusai and Studio Ghibli through his own idiosyncratic gaze to create a dazzling futuristic dystopian fable in which man’s best friend has been banished by a cat-loving mayor following an outbreak of canine flu.
Glasgow Film Festival Opening Gala: Isle of Dogs *****
Deposited on a nearby archipelago known as Trash Island, the country’s population of unwanted mutts have been left to go feral, largely forgotten by human owners who have succumbed to fake news designed to stoke fear of their four-legged friends. Scavenging for food and fighting over scraps, these dogs roam the landfill-strewn quarantine zone, banding together into mini packs who look out for one another at a time when the phrase “dog eat dog” might not be metaphorical. None of which sounds particularly kid-friendly, but anyone weaned on the likes of Spirited Away or Anderson’s own Fantastic Mr Fox should lap up the film’s weirder turns.
It’s also full of exquisite comic set-pieces and the hound-dog heroes - voiced by Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum and Anderson talisman Bill Murray - are wonderfully realised too, especially as they risk all to help a ten-year-old boy find his exiled pooch just as Mayor Kobayashi (voiced Kunichi Nomura, who co-wrote the story) sets in motion a duplicitous plan to wipe out the canine population once and for all. Anderson’s signature whimsy isn’t for everyone, but his evolving ability to temper delight with dread and vice-versa is superlative here, ensuring the wordplay of the title can’t help but ring true.