Kurosawa’s review published on Letterboxd:
...and now a more expanded 'review' after having slept on it...
Saw this with my Ltrbxd comrade, LaserDisc and we very much enjoyed it.
I was originally supposed to see it with my wife and son but plans changed and I saw it a couple days after they did. They were nice enough not to tell me anything other than how much they loved it - apparently he sat leaning forward on the edge of his seat and wide eyed the whole time which hasn't happened since "Tintin" when he was 7!
I mention this because I felt more subdued in my enjoyment of 'Isle Of Dogs' and I kind of put that down to the vibe in the cinema - the audience felt a bit too stereotypically 'Toronto' - hip, aware, quiet, restrained, uptight?
My most excellent film companion excluded of course!!
Though I was most likely projecting all that I felt like I was holding my emotions back instead of losing myself in the story and the world on the screen.
About half way through I heard a little girl's voice nearby in the audience and at first I felt annoyed that someone brought their kid ... which, trust me, is not at all how I feel in general about kids and movies (or anyplace really). That feeling disappeared and was replaced with a happiness that somewhere close by there was someone who was enjoying this movie without the savvy hip awareness of the Wes Anderson-isms, the Bill Murray, the Jeff Goldblum, the 'Seven Samurai' theme music etc.
And somehow it stopped being a Wes Anderson film to look at and it started being an adventure about kids saving dogs and vice versa.
There's a stern formalism to "Isle Of Dogs" that isn't as overt in Anderson's "Fantastic Mr Fox" and maybe that helped keep me distant for the first half of the film. The story is told in chapters and language barriers are presented and maintained for the characters as well as the audience. Instead of just subtitling everything into English, Anderson comes up with clever organic ways to 'translate' - even sometimes just letting the acting do the work. Occasionally I found the screen overwhelmed with textual information in both English and Japanese characters. Not a massive flaw, but it does require a bit more work rather than letting it all sink in.
The animation, frame composition, design, detail are all exquisite and engaging. Any 'roughness' associated with the hair and fur animation of "Fantastic Mr Fox" has evolved to be virtually flawless here, as if that were a big problem before.
The character performances and dialogue are also virtually flawless - though I felt a bit uncomfortable with the Tracy character being so aggressive with the Yoko Ono character, like it was a misstep or an overstep.
Having said all that the story is very dramatic - the main premise has a future society exiling and eradicating an entire segment of the population, the dogs. There's a whole lot that can be unpacked in just that, but also how science and empathy are discarded and destroyed by the rich & powerful. And how the youth work together and rise to take on the establishment and stop the extermination of the refugees, I mean dogs. Parallels to the Shoah, internment camps, and the current global socio-political climate are quite obvious and yet still very profound.