Before I unleash the hound-like guardians of human-pet intimacy, let me start by saying something nice: Welcome back, New Yorker Films. Industry legend Dan Talbot’s distribution company, which brought stateside the works of Godard, Bertolucci and Herzog throughout its illustrious four-decade timespan, is back from a buyout and not a moment too soon.
Its first post-resurrection acquisition, My Dog Tulip, has been enjoying effusive praise for its hand-painted style, its affectionate portrayal of an old man and his dog, and writer-directors Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s elegant adaptation of J.R. Ackerley’s 1956 novel of the same name. That’s all true; it’s beautiful, affectionate and elegant.
Here’s the problem: I don’t get dogs. I’ve never understood the apparently unbreakable bond between us and them, and people who obsess over their pet’s every piddle and poo just plain annoy me. Admittedly, if you’re going to follow one man’s journey through life through the nose of his dog, you’re in much better hands with Christopher Plummer, here playing an “old bean” with plenty of time and witticisms to spare, than say, Owen Wilson. But as endearing as Plummer’s Ackerley stand-in, Joe, is, and as fascinatingly antagonistic as Lynn Redgrave is playing Joe’s sister in her final role before her tragic death, it’s impossible to care much about either when so many of the scenes’ narrative thrusts are caught within the bowels and ovaries of a German Shepherd. (Unless, of course, you own one, I suppose.)
In a year that forced single, childless critics to endure Babies, I guess it’s only fair that Grinchy dog naysayers be asked to shed a tear for a man and his animal. And if it must be done, I say again, I’ll take My Dog Tulip over Marley and Me or Kitty Galore any day.
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