HEART OF A DOG (2015) review
written by: Laurie Anderson
produced by: Laurie Anderson and Dan Janvey
directed by: Laurie Anderson
runtime: 75 min.
U.S. release date: September 4, 2015 (Telluride Film Festival); January 22, 2016 (Chicago Theatrical Release)
Performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson is probably best known as the woman who stole Lou Reed’s heart. Following Reed’s 2013 death, Anderson turned introspective and decided to make a film exploring themes of loss, love, and companionship, with a relationship at its center. While it might not be the one we all expected, anyone who sees the title of this film will certainly discern that the relationship at the core of Anderson’s film is the one with her late finger-painting, piano-playing rat terrier Lolabelle. Utilizing a variety of techniques, including animation, stock footage, and footage which Anderson shot herself using an iPhone. Compelled to take a trip to California to escape the increasingly surveilled post-9/11 New York City, her time spent on that trip with Lolabelle takes up most of the first portion of the film.
As the film goes along, it goes off on more tangents – all of which find their way back to that core relationship between Anderson and Lolabelle. This is most certainly targeted for Anderson’s fans as well as dog lovers, who are sure to connect with Anderson’s fond reminiscences of her beloved Lolabelle. It’s also a tad too (dare I even say it) artsy for its own good. Allowing the film to play out as a fever dream full of remembrances weakens the overall point Anderson is trying to make, at least from an audience’s perspective.
As an artist, I’m sure Anderson felt every word, cut, and story was vital to understanding her pain, but it feels more personal than what I would call fit for public consumption.
It’s not a bad film, it’s just not a film for those who prefer some sort of through line or a film that perhaps plays by more traditional rules. The film will likely find an ardent fan base made up of fans of the avant-garde, but it doesn’t fall into any proper category of film.
“Heart of a Dog” is billed as a documentary and all of the stories come from Anderson’s life, but it never feels like a documentary. It has a feel all its own, and while I certainly don’t regret watching it, it doesn’t feel like the kind of film I’d revisit. Dog lovers, however, should definitely give this a shot as it really is a loving look at the powerful bond between a human and a dog.