Isle of Stray Dogs

The dog without an owner as an allegory for a Ronin (masterless Samurai) is a cute find, and while arguably the best looking of Wes Anderson’s films yet, the choice to have the Japanese characters speak unsubtitled Japanese, but have both the dogs and the Americans speak perfect English is peculiar.

It should’ve either been a Charlie Brown type of thing, where you could only understand the dogs and all humans speak unintelligible gibberish, or they should’ve just done everyone in English, even the Japanese characters. That would’ve been fine. No one complains that Beauty and the Beast isn’t in French. The way it’s done now Anderson & Co. write themselves into the corner where they’re forced to create American human characters to make the story work, because the Japanese can’t give any expositional dialogue, and in doing so they make all the Japanese characters semi-idiots, since the dogs (English) and the americans (English) are destined to do all the heavy lifting in the story. It seems insensitive, because you keep wondering ‘Wait, am I supposed to laugh at them?’. I don’t think that’s the intent at all, but the fact that you’re not sure is curious. I don’t really feel like laughing at an entire culture.

For a love letter to Japan and Japanese Cinema, it also feels a little easy, as all the Japanese culture portrayed in the movie is just the greatest hits of Japanese culture as chosen by white people (they use actual music from Seven Samurai) and it never delves any deeper than that.

Wes Anderson has never been a filmmaker with nuanced portrayals of foreign cultures, and his movies rarely pass the Bechdel test, but in the current climate, he could’ve done better. His films might be set in a world locked in some gorgeously preserved bygone era, Anderson as a filmmaker should keep up with the times.

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