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Heart of a Dog

Deeply personal documentary from the irrepressible Laurie Anderson

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Heart of a Dog

Even if you’re not a lover of all things doggy, Laurie Anderson’s highly personal essay film has the capacity to charm and cheer. Musician, multimedia artist and the widow of Lou Reed, the avant-garde Anderson’s penchant for the experimental comes to the fore in this self-narrated piece, ostensibly inspired by her love for her canine companion, the rat terrier Lolabelle.

While there are some choice moments – not least the sight of Lolabelle playing a mini keyboard – Anderson’s film is rather more than just a paean to her pet pooch. More like a poetic cine-reflection, she bounces around various topics – from her relationship with her mother to surveillance in post 9/11 America. As a New Yorker herself, it’s a troubling subject that remains close to her heart.

Constructed with a real homespun feel, Anderson has assembled the film from a variety of formats: 8mm home movies, animation, illustrations and oddball visual effects. There’s newly shot footage too (not least a rather amusing dog-cam POV on the streets of the West Village, with a brief cameo from Anderson’s neighbour, the artist / filmmaker Julian Schnabel). The result is like a colourful kaleidoscope.

With Anderson’s almost hypnotic voiceover drawing you in, it’s a strange but seductive experience and one that’s increasingly touching as the film unfolds. While the topics are heavyweight, Anderson’s airy approach means you’re never dwelling for too long. That’s not to say it isn’t provocative or carefully crafted, as she invokes Wittgenstein and other thinkers to muse on life, death, art, literature and love.

True, Anderson’s meandering thought-patterns don’t exactly offer a conventional cinematic night out, but it’ll leave you with much to mull over. Fans of the late Lou Reed will be especially touched, with the film dedicated to his ‘magnificent spirit’, as he serenades us with ‘Turning Time Around’ over the end credits. It’s a melancholic delight.

Selected release from Fri 20 May.

Heart of a Dog

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • 75 min
  • Directed by: Laurie Anderson
  • Written by: Laurie Anderson
  • UK release: 20 May 2016

Self-narrated documentary by musician and multimedia artist Anderson, ostensible inspired by her love for her rat terrier Lolabelle but taking in many topics from her relationship to her mother to surveillance in post-9/11 America. Provocative, thoughtful and seductive, it's a melancholy delight.

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