Berlinale 2018 #1: Wes Anderson wows with opening film stop motion animation ‘Isle of Dogs’

21st February 2018

So this week Candid Magazine is in Berlin attending the Berlinale 2018, the international Berlin film festival now in its 68th year. From the looks of it, it seems to be largest one if its kind on the festival calendar with over three hundred plus screenings; showing multiple times and simultaneously around at cinema theatres throughout the city throughout the week. Over the course of the week we will be updating you with some highlights of what we've seen so fat. At face value to be a strong sense of social commentary in most of the work that have been shown so far; dealing with issues such as immigration, class, in-equality and corruption. All the films reviewed below happen to be in the competiton section, competing for the Gold Lion statuette.

Kick-starting the festival is Wes Anderson‘s second animation film (after Fantastic Mr. Fox) the rather cute and meticulously concocted stop-animation graphic Isle of Dogs. Hinting at political and sociological motifs, through the sad telling of the displaced canine population from the Japanese metropolis Megasaki City, exiled to a nearby garbage dump called Trash Island; under the pretence of the villainous Major who proclaims the dogs are spreading deadly diseases; but in fact he has ulterior more feline inclined plans. Atari, the Mayor's nephew, manages to fly out a one-seater plane on to the island, in search of his long lost dog Spot. A few themes at play here on observation of current populism, its manipulation by politicians, the vilification of immigrants but also human's deplorable treatment of animals. Its all packaged in the usual Anderson style, which includes a plethora of complex, wide-eyed characters (dogs in this instance) often in a melancholic mood contrasting a vivid background. We will have a full review on Candid over the coming days.

This is a rather bleak and dreary film with the welcome appearance of Australian actor Hugo Weaving, although his role essentially becomes redundant mid-way as the story starts to hone in on the plight of the brutish Feeney, played impressively by James Frecheville. As Feeney returns home after serving in the British army, to find the British have decimated and impoverished the land and its locals, including his family who freeze to their death when they British army literally remove the roof over their hut for not having money to pay their taxes. Feeney seeks retribution and nothing will come in the way. There is quite strong anti-English sentiment that runs through the film which strikes a cord as similarities beg to be drawn with today's political climate.

An attractive if rather overly sentimental effort based on the book with same name by Penelope Fitzgerald. Based in a small seaside village, its a rather frivolous story underpinned by England's class system where Florence Green's (Emily Mortimer) intentions of opening a bookshop in the house she inherited contradicts queen bee Patricia Clarkson's wealthy politician Violet Gamart's determination of turning the space into an art center. Visually pleasing cinematography with stunning scenes of nature and architectural interiors; praising the directors attention to detail. However the film proves to be far too twee and soppy to be saved, despite noteworthy performances from Mortimer and Clarkson.

Transit is a Franco-German offering which also proved rather puzzling and troublesome. Christain Petzold's previous film Phoenix is an exquisite film and I rather had some high hopes for this one. It carries with it a similar theme to its predecessor where the lead assumes the role of a mistaken identity. Stylistically and thematically the film is pleasant enough to watch, but its perhaps the world that Petzold wants to creates comes across as too convouted and too subtle to convince. I found the merging of stories, events and characters from the past with present rather unclear and it all gets muddled up that it doesn't work as one cohesive piece. Franz Rogowski embodies the role's aloofness with ease; there is something of Joaquin Phoenix about him in his looks and manner, a less rugged version.

With Eva, we see Isabelle Hupert plays the same old role. Her character despite being a hard earning high-class prostitute, is literally a carbon copy of her recent roles such as Haneke's Happy End or Verhoeven's Elle or the one before that Mia Hansen Love's Alles Was Kommt. Yet she still manages to be a fascinating and titlasing to watch.

The film itself albeit problematic at various plot points it a thoroughly engaging but also incredibly stylish. Eva details the bizarre transition of Bertrand Valade, the dashing Gaspard Ulliel, from rent-boy to renowned scriptwriter after he steals a script from the house of a dead client. Now troubled to provide an equally successful second script, he forms a complicated sexual and personal relationship with Eva who provides him with fodder for his writing. However things to turn to the dramatic once he becomes obsessed with her, whilst she wishes to stop the affair.

The 68th Berlinale runs from the 15th -26th of February 2018.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_
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