A dedicated voyeur at the human zoo, Dog Days auteur Ulrich Seidl was first a documentarian, and here's his 1995 keynote film, a disquieting semi-fiction—his array of Austrian pet-owning lowlifes, lonely rejects, and mutant bourgeois all perform, pose, fuck, and play for the camera. Of course, in Seidl's world, one's relationship to a domestic beast (mostly dogs and rabbits; the only cat we see is dead) is a desperate howl for companionship in a hollow modernity, and as much as the people needily infantilize their animals, the pets themselves seem lost in selfless tolerance. Something of a companion piece to Robin Lehman's notorious Manimals, Seidl's film holds to a strategy somewhere between Errol Morris and Gaspar Noé. Beautifully dusky and fastidiously composed, Seidl's movies reveal a Vienna the rest of the world never sees; released on DVD simultaneously is Models (1999), in which Seidl constructs the screaming emptiness of local fashion models, playing themselves and struggling with men, cigarettes, exploitation, and their own brainlessness.

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