I had all the good reasons to have great expectations from ‘Isle of Dogs‘. First, it’s a movie about dogs. Second, it’s animation and the trailer looked great (including the dogs). Third, it’s set in Japan, a country I love for its culture, including the passion for film, animation and manga. Fourth it’s a movie by Wes Anderson and I liked his previous work. And yet, I was quite disappointed.  ’Isle of Dogs‘ was much less than what I had expected.





It’s a film by Wes Anderson and it comprises many of the qualities that you can expect from the stylish director. It is amazing in it’s visual part which combines a dystopic image of the close visuals of Japan with animation descending from the Japanese manga style and from the Disney dog lovers division. It gathers in the distribution a unique collection of stars which borrow their voices to the animated characters. It lacks however one important component – a compelling and original story. All the talent invested in the movie seems wasted in an exuberant aesthetic show supporting a rather childish and expected story about a teens and children helping good dogs in their fight against bad men. Too simple, too linear.


(video source Zero Media)


Dogs seldom fail us in real life. This is one exception. Luckily, it happens on screen.

The art of animated films does not cease to amaze. Certainly, much of the progress in the last quarter of century came from computer graphics and its derivatives, as the resolution and flexibility of the digital tools push the edge of innovation as far as the fantasy of the creators with it. Yet, there is room for novelty even by using more conventional means, and they can be up to the task of creating artistic emotion. ‘Loving Vincent‘ created by and is the best proof .


This is kind of post-biographical story and if you want also a possible crime investigation, as the story focuses on the last weeks of the life of Vincent van Gogh revealed through the eyes of the son of The Postman (one of the famous paintings of Vincent) who comes to the place of his death a couple of years later to deliver a last letter of the artist. By now almost everybody is familiar with the tragic destiny of the painter and there are no big news in the story, despite an apparent and not very convincing tentative of questioning the circumstances of van Gogh’s death. The interest of the film and its magnetic attraction lie someplace else.


(video source Madman)


The film in my opinion never intended to be a true detective story. It is actually the animation technique which transforms ‘Loving Vincent‘ into a memorable visual experience. The way the story is being told starts from the paintings, portraits and landscapes painted by van Gogh during his stays in Paris and Arles. We know many of them, but we have not seen them this way, as the paintings get life and turn into a manner of reflecting the world and the period the painter lived in through his eyes. The technique used is building each fragment frame by frame with the painters means, and the result is amazing. Each one of the frames is a work of art by itself, and the overall atmosphere is overwhelming. The film is about Vincent, about the people that surrounded him and the world he lived in. The magic lies not that much in the story but in the way it is being told.   ‘Loving Vincent‘ is a true work of art and a declaration of love for the artist who signed Vincent.


I expect something different, something smart, something deep, each time I am seeing a film written or (lately) directed by . Many of his films are not one-time experiences, the second or later viewing brings new understanding and discovers of new layers under the one of the original story which is also not obvious or readable from the first time. This may be the case also with Anomalisa, which is also the reason that I am cautious in sharing my disappointment with this latest film of Kaufman, which seems to me to be the more obvious and less sophisticated work that he has made or written in the last two decades.





The story is apparently simple. Michael Stone is a famous author of one of those successful ‘How To …’ business books. He comes for one night in one of these mid-America metropolis that look so much one as the other, he checks into one of these hotels that that look so much one as the other, calls one an ex-girlfriend who is one of those women that look so much one as the other. We soon realize that all the persons he talks with have the same voice, that all women have a very look-alike appearance. Actually, if we pay attention and we know some psychology, Michael may suffer of the Fregoli delusion, a syndrome in which patients believe that other people are in fact a single person who changes appearance or is in disguise. And the name of the hotel he checked-in is Hotel Fregoli! Or maybe the psychological condition is just a metaphor for broader human estrangement.

All these until he meets Lisa. Or Anomaly-Lisa. Or Anomalisa. The woman who may be the Different One.


(video source Movieclips Trailers)


I will not continue telling more in order to avoid spoilers, but rather refer on a few details to film-making. Stop-motion, the animation method used by , and Charlie Kaufman provides a very special look to the film and shifts much of the expression and emotion to the modeled characters, sets, and lighting. All work well together, the faces seem like masks in a theater that reflects the reality but is also somehow different, and so is the surrounding combination of familiar and strange. We are in kind of a dream. yet the situation, characters, suffering is all well-known and very human.

The second part of the story and its outcome, however, quite disappointed me.I had the feeling that too many smart ideas were invested in too small a story. But, as I said, it’s a film by Charlie Kaufman, and I may have not gotten it all.


Having spent the 70s in Romania and missed much of the cultural fresh air, I am in a continuous process of recovering some of my lost time. Music was the only form of art which crossed the Iron Curtain thanks to Radio Free Europe and to the vinyl records smuggled through customs, but otherwise I am still catching up with much of the books, films, and arts of the times of my first youth. The animated feature Fritz the Cat realized in 1972 by Ralph Bakshi was one of the sensations of these years, the first animated movie to be X-rated and break the taboos of the children and family oriented cartoons industry. Bakshi himself – born in Haifa in 1938, and brought by his family in the US in 1939 – seems to be an interesting character and creator, refusing to compromise and to follow beaten paths. He rather seems the kind of artist who breaks his path through.





With ‘Fritz the Cat’ Bakshi takes a popular comics character created by Robert Crumb and throws him in the decadent New York of the beginning of the 70s, as kind of a fall-out student whose only purpose in life is having sex with as many and as different girlie animals as possible, smoking pot, and participating a revolution or two on the way. I liked the way Bakshi positioned his character catching the big features of the hippie generation, and placing it in relation with the other anti-establishment movements of the era – the anarchistic revolutionaries, and the Black Panthers. We recognize the landscape from the metropolis and universities of the ‘Undergraduate’ to the desert crossed by the trucks and motorcycles of ‘Easy Rider’. We laugh at the characters (an anthology scene has three NY chicks trying to draw the attention of a black – well, crow with texts about how beautiful is the color, another one features the cat followed by pig policemen in a synagogue, with one pig being .. hum, Jewish), we recognize the music – original score, sounds authentic because it is authentic. It’s irreverent and daring.


(video source Colin Macleod)


‘Fritz the Cat’ may not be a masterpiece and was never meant to be one. Animation is maybe not mother of innovation, and the pace of the story does not match the masterpieces of the genre it departs from, but the same happens when a road movie is compared to a thriller which happens on the roads. It is an important film in my opinion because it broke the conventions and showed the power of the genre. Many other creators followed, not in the same genre, not in the same mood, but using the techniques and daring to dare, because after Fritz using animation for any subject was possible. Fritz was unique.