Sunday, October 10, 2010

the contrarian: The Fierlingers' "My Dog Tulip"

Few things surprise me more in life than a hugely anticipated film that disappoints. Case in point: the beautifully rendered animation of J.R. Ackerley's slim memoir of unconditional love, "My Dog Tulip."

The pastel-soft, scratch-pad images by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, coupled with John Avarese's playful music score and Ackerley's modest narrative, were initially transporting for this lovelorn animal activist.

For its first 15 minutes or so, I was enchanted by the film's slender plotline about a lonely, solitary bachelor finding his perfect companion in a handsome Alsatian shepherd who he rather wittily names Tulip.

But the charm wears off when, almost inexplicably, the film becomes obsessed with the dog's bodily functions - her need to urninate and defecate and her owner's curious preoccupation with/involvement in Tulip's sex life. These references aren't occasional or merely scattered throughout the film; they are the film, dominating its second two-thirds.


Exacerbating matters is the interlude when Tulip gives birth to a litter and her owner, having given the situation absolutely no thought whatsoever, can't decide what to do with the puppies. Should he give them away? Should he drown them? He certainly can't keep them in his cramped flat. Suddenly, the wizened narrator (voiced by Christopher Plummer) seems less like an educated sophisticate than a moron. It makes sense now that this odd solopsist would be so lonely and have so few relationships.

I've no idea if this is the message that the talented filmmakers wanted to impart or even if it is possibly drawn from the source material itself.

What I do know is, it isn't good.


A.N. said...

Hi Joe, yes, I believe these issues come from the source material. It's been awhile since I read the book but I was troubled by his lack of sense about caring for a dog. So, I'm not sure that the problems can be laid at the filmmakers feet. They'd have to change the story if they wanted to avoid the owner's odd lack of insight.

joe baltake said...

That was my suspicion - that the source material was the problem. Sometimes, not all the ideas in a book translate well to the screen. For me, this is one example. Still, visually, it's an enchanting film.

Sonja said...

Could not agree more with this review!

Alice said...

You are right. This film should come with a warning... I bought it for my parents as they rescued an Alsatian and at first, the film was lovely. Then it descended into a strange, dark and, frankly, perverse world where it was all about the dog's bodily functions - and when it got to the part about the Vaseline, (nudge nudge) we had to turn it off.