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.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 7, 2004