To celebrate the release of Isle of Dogs, director Wes Anderson has teamed up with The Store X at 180 The Strand to present an exhibition exploring the meticulously crafted dystopian world of Megasaki – the fictional Japanese city in which the film is set.
In addition to 17 hand-crafted original sets and puppets, visitors can get a taste of Japanese cuisine at the accompanying noodle bar, also inspired by a set from the film.
Wes Anderson is a notorious perfectionist, his style an aesthetic dream, but getting to see the sets from the film up close only emphasises the love and care that went into Isle of Dogs specifically. All of Anderson’s films are works of art in their own right, but the level of detail in each puppet and set is even more amazing in real life.
In the days leading up to Isle of Dogs’ release, several critics have accused Anderson of appropriating Japanese culture, commenting that the film furthers negative Japanese stereotypes while featuring a predominantly white voice cast (they are voicing dogs, mind you).
While Anderson is a white director, he brought in Kunichi Nomura to help develop the story and ensure that the essence of Japanese culture was accurately captured. The Japanese characters all speak their native tongue (although one vocal Japanese critic noted that expressions were simplified for Western audiences), and it is explained early on why the dogs all seemingly speak perfect English.
At the end of the day, Isle of Dogs is an animated film about talking dogs and Anderson’s intentions were in no way malicious. It is clear from this exhibition the level of respect Anderson has for Japanese culture, and the care that went into crafting his beautiful ode to the country.
Anderson’s style has always had a strong Japanese influence, and the director himself has stated that Isle of Dogs was a more overt nod to his heroes Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki. What’s more, the plot to Isle of Dogs is clearly a timely cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism. Setting the film in America or Europe in the age of Brexit and Trump may have been a little too on the nose for some audience members.
The Isle of Dogs exhibition at 180 The Strand is now open until Sunday, April 8th due to phenomenal demand and entry is free. Isle of Dogs is in cinemas now.
Words by Ethan Megenis-Clarke @_ethanmc.
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