Director: Laurie Anderson
With: Laurie Anderson, Dan Janvey, Toshiaki Ozawa, Joshua Zucker Pluda
75min | Documentary | US | France
Laurie Anderson returns to filmmaking for the first time since her concert documentary Home of the Brave (1986). Heart of A Dog (no relation to Bulgakov’s anti-Stalinist satire of 1925) plays out on many levels: documentary, animation, essay and installation – the latter part of the artists’ Habeus Corpi installation which showed in 2015 in New York City.
But the star of the show is a dog (or, to be precise, six canines were in front of the camera), with Anderson’s own, late dog Lolabelle, a rat terrier, taking centre stage. Early on the filmmaker dreams of giving birth to a dog, even though she cheated a little in the process, and this is shown in Laurie’s charming pencil sketches. Further musings after the death of Lolabelle lead Anderson to the main subject of her film essay: saying goodbye not only to Lolabelle, but her also her mother and always unspoken, her husband Lou Reed, who died in 2013, and whose Turning Time Around plays powerfully over the end-credits.
The overall style is liquid with all segments flowing – in an associative way – into each other. Some strains are picked up again, like the reaction to 9/11, when images of the huge NSA HQ in the desert in Utah, where the recordings of security agencies are made and stored indefinitely. Lolabelle, who seemed to have been a gifted piano player, nearly became the victim of a circling hawk in California, who mistook her for a big rabbit. Later, Anderson dreams about her dog, being in ‘borda’ for 49 days, a sort of in-between state before re-incarnation, as taught by the Tibetan ‘Book of Death’.
But the director is always self-critical: after telling the story of her long hospital stay after a childhood accident, she was put together in a ward with children suffering from serious burns: Anderson remembering that she censured her memory, leaving out the “cries, dying children make”. With quotes by Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard, Heart of a Dog is an essay about letting go – melancholic, but never depressing. It celebrates life and many art forms, the human and the canine spirit, leaving the audience in a contemplative mood. AS
ON RELEASE AT ARTHOUSE VENUES FROM 13 MAY 2016 | REVIEWED AT VENICE FILM FESTIVAL SEPTEMBER 2015