Wes Anderson and the producers and cast of Berlinale opening movie “Isle of Dogs,” cracked wise through a bubbly press conference Thursday that paid no heed to such weighty matters as the #MeToo movement and whether the Berlin Palast should unfurl a red or black carpet. Three times the film’s assembled cast burst into song, with Bill Murray leading a rendition of Bob Balaban’s name to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann,” and then happy birthday to Koyu Rankin on his 11th birthday.
Getting to the politics of the movie, which follows events after dogs are exiled from a fictional Japanese metropolis to an island full of garbage and are demonized by politicians and authorities, director Wes Anderson said that they were made up, but that real life started to creep in.
“We knew there was something happening politically [in the film]. It’s where the story came from, and what happens in the movie, it’s our fantasy of the politics in this made-up place,” he said. “But then, because we have been working on this movie for a long time, the world began to change in the movie and we all said it feels right for the moment, so maybe there were tiny places along the way where we were getting new inspiration from real life.”
Anderson talked about the team’s influences for “Isle of Dogs.” “There are two directors who are our inspirations, Kurosawa and Miyazaki. We even have Mari Natsuki who is in [Miyazaki’s] ‘Spirited Away,’” he said. “With Miyazaki you get nature and you get moments of peace and a kind of rhythm that is not in the American, for instance, animation tradition so much.”
The film is Anderson’s return to opening the Berlin Film Festival after “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in 2014 and his return to stop-motion after 2009’s Roald Dahl adaptation “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” He talked about his new film’s animation technique. “If you’re going to do it that way you’re embracing old methods, but we pushed that as far as we could,” he said. “We tried to do everything we can in the camera and I don’t think there is anything in the whole movie that you would call CG.”
Anderson was part of an 11-person panel at the “Isle of Dogs” press conference, with Tilda Swinton and others in the front row. “Most of the actors here are people who I have either worked with before or have loved for years,” Anderson said. “One thing about an animated movie is [talent] can’t really say ‘not available.’”
Asked about being a voice actor rather than appearing on screen, Murray said: “With this movie it is a little bit like in the ‘We Are the World’ video. These are some of the great voices of cinema and I’m very happy to be singing even if I only get one verse.”