Laurie Anderson investigates loss through the prism of her beloved pooch’s death in Heart of a Dog, an impressionistic nonfiction collage set to the filmmaker’s ruminative narration, which she often whispers for the effect of maximum intimacy.
Anderson’s film is a free-form affair, moving at will between stories about Lolabelle the dog, Anderson’s childhood, and her mother’s passing. She begins with animation of herself (actually, it’s her “dream self”) and then segues into a montage of archival movies and photographs of Lolabelle (including of the animal playing the piano), DV footage shot from the canine’s p.o.v. on NYC streets, and panoramas of trees and sky spied through grainy filters.
Throughout, there’s much talk about the Tibetan Book of the Dead and about what transpires after people (and pets) shuffle off their mortal coil. Assuming a deliberately poetic form in order to capture something elusive about the way in which we process mortality and grief, her documentary sporadically locates profound truth amid its myriad musings about the momentous and the everyday.
Often, however, Anderson’s hushed-tone articulations of her thoughts on these subjects prove affected, and her stream-of-consciousness style, though acutely constructed, is more alienating than inviting — issues that amplify the impression of an artist getting lost gazing into the unique composition and character of her own navel.
Heart of a Dog
Written and directed by Laurie Anderson
Opens October 21, Film Forum
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 20, 2015