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Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog

Although originally released in Japan eight years ago, the New York debut of Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog is well-timed: It arrives less than a month after Darling Companion, which makes the mistake of featuring its handsome hound in too few scenes, and coincides with the closing weekend of the Morgan Library's excellent "In the Company of Animals" exhibition. But then again, when isn't it a good time to show a movie tracing the development of a kind, charismatic yellow Labrador retriever from frolicsome puppy to devoted seeing-eye companion to weary senior? When still just a tiny, adorable bundle of fur, Quill (so named because of the odd marking on his side that resembles a bird in flight) shows remarkable patience and calm, distinguishing him from his four littermates and qualifying him as a good candidate to aid the visually impaired. After being fostered by a doting couple until age one, Quill then undergoes training with affectionate disciplinarian Satoshi Tawada (Kippei Shiina), who matches the imperturbable pooch with cranky Mitsuru Watanabe (Kaoru Kobayashi). The protracted section with the sour, loud middle-age blind man and his family is uneven, yet viewers can grow only so irritable when a dog (or series of dogs) as magnificent as this one is on-screen. As Ted Hughes, comparing poems to animals, once said: "They have a certain wisdom. They know something special."


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