Monday, October 5, 2015
Trying to describe Laurie Anderson's moving HEART OF A DOG (2015) New York FIlm Festival 2015
The film is structured as an essay and celebration of Anderson's dog, but as things happen it becomes a meditation on life, death and the ones we lose along the way, in this case her mother and her husband to whom the film is dedicated and whose music closes the film.
I have no idea what to say except this film rocks.
This film did what all truly great films do and that is take me on a trip I've never been before. Yes I've lost people, yes I've read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, yes I've thought about life and death in my own way and yes I am familiar with many of the places in New York where Anderson shot her film, but never before had I thought about things in this way or seen neighborhoods I know like this. with this film I saw the world with a new set of eyes.
Being billed as a documentary, the film will eventually be shown as part of HBO's documentary series, the film is instead more an essay. It is kind of like the work of the theater group Complicite which very often starts you in one place only to finish up in another. Their show MNEMONIC began with the director coming out to say a few brief words abut the show and the next thing you knew you were in the middle of several stories, one of which was the last hours of an ancient man found in ice. What started as a few words of introduction ended with a tearful audience weeping for a chair that stood in for a long dead man. If that sounds a bit WTF, know that HEART OF A DOG being about starts off being about her dog but ends up with a memory that will bring a tear to your eyes.
I know that you want some sort of explanation but I really don't have one. This film just kind of is. When I spoke with the Quay Brothers a couple of months back about their body of work they talked about how some films like, works of music can not be described with words, they simply are. Essentially the only way to know what they are about is to experience them for yourself. They said that the only ones dumb enough to do so are critics. I suppose that these futile paragraphs mean I'm a stupid critic for trying to corral Anderson's film.
HEART OF A DOG is a unique and beautiful thing. It will both move you emotionally and intellectually. Love it or hate it you will be affected by it, just as you are by all of life. It is a much more than a piece of cinema or television, but rather a living breathing statement of what it means to be alive- for Laurie Anderson if no one else. It is a singular achievement and a must see.
HEART OF A DOG plays October 8 at the New York Film Festival. For tickets and more information go here. The film will hit theaters in two weeks and will eventually run as part of HBO's Documentary series