Doggy Style

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Laurie Anderson’s mournful Heart of a Dog bestrides the line between navel-gazing and something deeper. As an experimental film, Heart of a Dog eschews a typical narrative. Ostensibly, it’s about a dog, Lolabelle, with whom Anderson sojourned to Northern California after 9/11. Lolabelle went blind and died. Using these incidents, Anderson weaves a tapestry about loving (and not loving) and losing people in her life: spouse Lou Reed, friend Gordon Matta-Clark, her mother. The texture of Heart of a Dog varies: POV shots from Lolabelle’s perspective, shots through a drizzled pane of glass, haunting shots of barren trees. Anderson also interpolates the film with poetry delivered in rapid bursts of typed text on screen, with artwork like Goya’s Dog, and with epigrams of Søren Kierkegaard (“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”), Ludwig Wittgenstein (“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”), and David Foster Wallace (“Every love story is a ghost story.”). Set to her own score, Heart of a Dog uses Anderson’s droll and gentle voice-over to guide us along. It’s weakest when Anderson lapses into a kind of meditative narration as she’s quoting Tibetan Buddhists. It’s strongest when Anderson freely associates disparate strands of thought. Or when Anderson recounts horrible episodes from her early life. She reflects that, when stories sanitize the reality of what happened, you forget the truth. Yes, life is messy. It doesn’t conform to sentimental narratives. Anderson rightly reminds us of that.

By Alec Julian & Carrie White 

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One thought on “Doggy Style

  1. I saw it last weekend. We were at dinner at a favorite Japanese restaurant and found Laurie sitting at table talking with folks. We figured out that the movie was at NuArt and decided to go. She said a few words beforehand. I really liked her drawings and animations and the soundtrack, of course, I found the whole thing moving. I liked the buddhist stuff, especially, try and feel sad but not be sad.

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