Song of the Day #3,720: ‘I Won’t Hurt You’ – The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band

I can’t remember the last movie I loved as instantly as Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. Not even a minute into the film’s prologue, which tells the story of a boy samurai who defended the “underdog dogs” against total canine annihilation and “beheaded the head of the head of the Kobayashi clan,” I was smitten.

The prologue segues into an opening credits sequence featuring a trio of young taiko drummers performing in the center of a gymnasium. And all of this is rendered in the most dazzling stop-motion animation I’ve ever seen.

In just a couple of minutes, the brilliance of the film’s screenplay, visuals and music are all on lavish display. Isle of Dogs maintains that level of artistry throughout, brimming with good humor and eye-popping set pieces. Few films are so wonderfully unique, so instantly special.

Anderson creates a fictional Japan based in large part on the Japanese movies he loves, and spins a wild yarn about the titular island, where dogs are shipped to live in exile. This is a family film that doubles as an immigration allegory, with the dogs representing both Japanese-Americans in America’s ugly past and Hispanic immigrants in America’s ugly present. In the Age of Trump, even animated comedies have to take a side.

The film’s lineup of voice talent is impressive. Bryan Cranston leads a large ensemble that includes Frances McDormand, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel, Scarlett Johansson, Liev Schreiber, Ken Watanabe, Tilda Swinton, Courtney B. Vance and Yoko Ono. Every one of those actors has a chance to shine, even in the smallest of parts.

As in his excellent Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson had his actors record their audio in groups (usually voice actors are recorded individually), and it’s evident in the natural interplay between characters.

Animation is the perfect medium for an obsessive visual artist like Anderson. He packs every frame with extraordinary detail and subtle jokes you don’t catch until your second or third viewing. Some of his compositions are simply breathtaking.

One of the film’s most effective sequences follows the main characters on a journey across a series of haunted landscapes. To score the scene, Anderson reached into his 60s pop toolbox and unearthed a gem of a song, ‘I Won’t Hurt You’ by L.A. psychedelic rock band The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.

I had never heard of this group or this song in my life but damnit if Anderson didn’t unearth a tune that, when paired with his visuals, suddenly feels essential.

[Verse 1]
I’ve lost all of my pride
I’ve been to paradise and out the other side
With no one to guide me
Torn apart by a fiery wheel inside me

[Hook]
I won’t hurt you
I won’t hurt you
I won’t hurt you
I won’t hurt you

[Verse 2]
An untouched diamond
That’s golden and brilliant without illumination
Your mouth’s a constellation
The stars are in your eyes
I’ll take a spaceship and try and go and find you

[Hook]
I won’t hurt you
I won’t hurt you
I won’t hurt you
I won’t hurt you

[Verse 3]
My pale blue star
My rainbow, how good it is to know you’re like me
Strike me with your lightning
Bring me down and bury me with ashes

[Hook]
I won’t hurt you
I won’t hurt you
I won’t hurt you
I won’t hurt you

9 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,720: ‘I Won’t Hurt You’ – The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I watched this film on a flight to Austin and found it to be utterly pretentious and insufferable. I suspect you are no more surprised by my reaction than I am of yours.😁

    • Clay says:

      You are a sad little man with no imagination!

      • Dana Gallup says:

        Well, that’s harsh! I refrained from calling you a walking stereotype of a Nick Hornby character who probably thinks ranking Mama Mia 2 with Isle of Dogs as your number 1 and 2 cuts against pretentiousness, but actually amplifies it.😄

        • Clay says:

          Touche!

          Insults aside, I think it’s clear that Wes Anderson is one of those “you’re either in or you’re out” filmmakers, and clearly I’m in while you’re out. I can certainly understand the accusations of pretentiousness in his work but it just doesn’t hit me that way. For me, the humor is what cuts against the pretentiousness.

          • Dana says:

            I haven’t always been “out” with Anderson. I liked Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums and, to a lesser extent, Grand Budapest Hotel. In those moves, the humor eclipsed the pretentiousness. In Isle of Dogs, there was not NEARLY enough humor to overcome the pretentiousness.

  2. Peg Clifton says:

    We have not seen this film but I hope to at some point so that I can weigh in on the controversy 😊. Loved the analysis though

  3. Maddie says:

    Definitely more with my dad on this one, though I could see the charm and the humor (particularly in the first half of the movie). I felt the balance toward dreary and pretentious escalated the longer the story went on. But ai can see where the imagination and charm of the movie grabbed you. It’s got only a pinch of the heart and humor of Paddington 2, though.

    • Clay says:

      I really need to see Paddington 2. It’s an appropriate reference; I’ve never seen a review of either Paddington film that doesn’t compare them to the films of Wes Anderson.

      • Maddie says:

        I’d say Paul King clearly dabbles in some similar wit and aesthetic as Wes Anderson, but the way he allows details and emotion to shine is entirely different.

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