Isle of Dogs

2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox proved Wes Anderson’s pastel baroque worlds could be seamlessly rendered into stop-motion. The quirky and light-hearted adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl book centred around the adventures of a witty anthropomorphic fox received gleaming reviews from critics, Wes fans and, most importantly, the cinema-going public.

So the announcement that, four years on from the offbeat live-action comedy of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson would climb back into his director’s chair for another stop-motion feature, this time about a group of witty anthropomorphic dogs, could perhaps feel like indolent laurel-resting.

Set largely on Trash Island, situated just off the coast of a dystopian Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a muttley crew of dogs struggling to survive in the desperate landscape of a gigantic offshore rubbish tip to which, as suspected virus carriers, they have been banished, and a young boy in his quest to rescue his own dog.

The plot shares Fantastic Mr Fox’s simplicity and a narrative rooted in human-animal relationships, yet Isle of Dogs is far from a rehash of Mr Fox’s capers, thanks largely to Anderson’s stylistic flexibility. Aspects of gross-out comedy and gallows humour carve out a unique place for it in his already varied filmography.

Bryan Cranston’s deadpan delivery as top dog Chief plays off his pack wonderfully, though it is in the gradual friendship he builds with the young boy Atari that this really shines through. Confidence in portraying awkwardness lifts these exchanges.

While a Western director setting a film in Japan, especially a comedy, inevitably receives some accusations of appropriation and racism - in this case largely around the Tracy Walker (voiced by Greta Gerwig) character as ‘white saviour’ - Anderson intends nothing but respect for the country and its culture. If anything, it’s refreshing to see a big budget American animation tread this territory, despite the reluctance to take a two-footed jump out of middle-class suburbia.

Anderson has proven that, even whilst maintaining his trademark auteurism, he still has many fresh ideas to offer as a director. Isle of Dogs is a forward-thinking animation piece of the same quality and heart of Japan’s own Studio Ghibli productions. Concrete evidence that animated film can be just as sophisticated as live-action cinema, it's perhaps an early contender for film of the year, in any category.

Jordan Lee Smith

Tales from Stump City

Shocked when she followed events unfolding on Rustlings Road in the early hours of 17 November 2016 on social media, with residents roused to move their cars and three people arrested, local filmmaker Jacqui Bellamy (Pixelwitch Jaq) decided to get involved. Realising taking photos was not enough, she started collecting footage for a documentary. The film aims to provide insight into the complexities of the situation and the multiple, fluid stories of the individuals, organisations, politics, contractual obligations and relationships involved.

Despite Jacqui’s ongoing aim to represent all perspectives, Amey and Sheffield City Council personnel resist appearing on film. As such, most of the footage thus far focuses on the experiences of protestors.

Showing protestors arrested for anything from playing a pink trumpet while arborists wield deafening chainsaws, to swearing while police and security personnel use what they deem 'reasonable force', Jacqui insists the film "needs to feel as intense as it actually is on the streets". Showing not just the resilience and tenacity of protestors, the film will also document the considerable anguish, sleeplessness and other distressing effects they face. Some deal with this creatively. The art group documenting our city’s threatened trees, Sheffield Trees Arts Group (STARTS), came into being after a protestor sketched the tree under which they lay, trying to find some calm in the storm.

Incorporating residents’ phone footage and accepting offers from local musicians to use their music, Jacqui emphasises that the film is about Sheffield, created by people in Sheffield. Potential funders encourage ‘internationalising’ the message, but Jacqui rejects this strategy. The story is already global. Sadly, the attacks on nature and civil liberties this Sheffield story involves are recognisable for what they are all across the globe. Documenting these events on film can play an important role in challenging what’s happening - and in the battle to hold those in power accountable.

Crowdfunding for the project is ongoing. Please donate or share if you can: gogetfunding.com/tales-from-stump-city-documentary-2

Samantha Holland
with thanks to Pixelwitch Jaq

Permanent Dreams: Bergman at the Showroom

Watching an Ingmar Bergman film is an intimidating prospect. One of the most celebrated directors ever, he made over 60 films in his lifetime, several of which are considered amongst the best of all time. His influence can be felt in everything from the work of Martin Scorsese and Claire Denis to Bill & Ted. A new retrospective at the Showroom Cinema aims to prove how surprisingly accessible the Swedish miserabilist actually is, despite the reputation that precedes him, as well as screening some curios of interest to the Bergman literate.

Besides coming with the baggage of time and prestige, another hurdle to watching Bergman in the 21st century is how thoroughly out of step much of his style is with modern cinema. In an increasingly secular society, his stories are often explicitly religious in their exploration of spirituality. Realism is shirked in favour of actors making declamatory statements, theatrically played to the back of the room.

Yet despite both their seriousness and unfamiliar style, Bergman’s films are resolutely for the masses, touching on universal themes. It’s easy to understand the boldly allegorical The Seventh Seal, where a knight plays chess against Death himself to try and prolong his life. The light adolescent romance Summer With Monika and meditative older age drama Wild Strawberries are accessible human dramas, yet their simple premises belie a deep well of artistry, thought and feeling.

For the more daring, there are multiple screenings of his experimental work Persona, whose dreamy story of malleable identities inspired the likes of Black Swan and Mulholland Drive. There’s also a rare outing of his English-language drama The Touch, starring Elliot Gould.

Culled from the BFI’s recent and exhaustive retrospective to mark what would have been the director’s 100th birthday, Permanent Dreams: The Cinema of Ingmar Bergman runs at the Showroom from 10 May to 19 July.

Tom Baker

showroomworkstation.org.uk/permanent-dreams

Film Listings

Hosted by Samantha Holland

A DAY OF SILENT FILM AND MUSIC
Sat 12 May | 11am-11pm | Abbeydale Picture House | £25/£21/under 18s free

A Yorkshire Silent Film Festival event featuring Laurel & Hardy, Sherlock Holmes, live performances by Neil Brand on piano and much more. Highlights include Harold Lloyd’s funny and gutsy Speedy (Ted Wilde, 1928) and the genuinely bizarre and macabre circus ‘freak’ melodrama, The Unknown (Tod Browning, 1927). yorkshiresilentfilm.com

THANK YOU FOR THE RAIN
Julia Dahr & Kisilu Musya, 2017
Thu 17 May | 8:30pm | Regather | £5
This documentary tells how Kenyan farmer Kisilu was using his camera to capture local life and the ravages of climate change when a violent storm brought him and Norwegian filmmaker Dahr together, then follows Kisilu’s transformation into a global activist. Regather, Festival of Debate and Sheffield Climate Alliance also present a free workshop on making a difference. regather.net

MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA
Dziga Vertov, 1929
Fri 18 May | 8:30pm | Showroom | £10/£4.50
Reprising last year’s sell-out performance, Ensemble 360’s Laurène Durantel improvises her fun and innovative live piano, voice and double-bass accompaniment to Man with a Movie Camera. Part of the Yorkshire Silent Film Festival. musicintheround.co.uk

PARIS, TEXAS
Wim Wenders, 1984
Thu 31 May | 6pm | Showroom | £8.80 / £6.60
Set against the isolating, wide open spaces of the USA, Paris, Texas’s protagonist, Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) works on his broken relationships. A classic Wenders film with superb score and casting. There will be an introduction relating the film to Aristotle’s notion of man as a social animal. showroomworkstation.org.uk/paris-texas