Some directors deliver individual movies, others create whole worlds to play in. Wes Anderson, the quirky, whimsical, irrepressible mind behind Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and The Grand Budapest Hotel, is definitely one of the latter.
Ever since his debut, Bottle Rocket, in 1996, Anderson’s films have borne the unmistakable stamp of his eccentric imagination. Populated with unforgettable characters and vivid, idiosyncratic detail, they often have the delightful feel of a sophisticated, witty short story ripped from the pages of The New Yorker, during the age of SJ Perelman and Dorothy Parker.
However, he’s not a director to rush things, and the arrival of a new Wes Anderson film has become an event to be relished by cinephiles. A full four years after his quadruple Oscar-winning Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle Of Dogs – the director’s second movie filmed using stop-motion, after the rapturously received Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009 – bounds its way into cinemas this spring. And it turns out to be an indisputably Andersonian trip.
Anderson has been typically secretive about the film’s plot – although at this year’s London Film Festival, composer Alexandre Desplat (who wrote the music for that film, and Moonrise Kingdom in 2012) described it as “amazing, it’s Mr. Fox on acid!” With a cast of mostly canine characters, it’s set in a dystopian Japan 20 years in the future, in which the country’s pooches have been brutally exiled to a “trash island” after an outbreak of dog flu. 12-year-old Atari Kobayashi’s mutt, Spots, is caught up in the quarantine and so the youngster embarks on a thrilling quest to save his pal, aided by the island’s four-legged prisoners.
Stop-motion film-making is tailor-made for Anderson’s visually unconventional style and fanatical obsession with detail, but this time Anderson’s influences stretch much further than the clay models of stop-motion maestro Ray Harryhausen. “I always liked the creatures in the Harryhausen-type films,” he says, “but the new film is less influenced by stop-motion movies than it is by Akira Kurosawa.”
A Wes Anderson film wouldn’t be a Wes Anderson film without Bill Murray, who has been in every one of the director’s features, stretching right back to Bottle Rocket. Even so, Isle Of Dogs’ stellar cast doesn’t stop with Anderson regulars like Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Jeff Goldblum and Harvey Keitel. Also joining the star-studded pack are Scarlett Johansson, Greta Gerwig, Courtney B. Vance and Liev Schreiber. Set to open the Berlin Film Festival (the first animated movie in Berlinale history to do so), this is sure to become another Anderson classic.
Isle Of Dogs is released in cinemas on Friday 30 March. Find your cinema and book tickets.