Last year’s critically acclaimed HBO film, Heart of a Dog, hits the Criterion Collection this morning. One of the big achievements that many filmmakers strive for is to get that “C” branded on their film. Most wait for years, but Laurie Anderson gets to see her unique docudrama meet its initial home video release via Criterion. When you experience her one of a kind blend of storytelling and use of multimedia, it’s hard not to see why she fits into the Criterion brand.
The film both is and isn’t about Anderson’s rat terrier, Lolabelle. Lolabelle’s life and death provide the vehicle, but Anderson’s thoughts on everything from death and reincarnation to how animals live out their artistic sides to existential beliefs and faith are along for the ride. Thus, Lolabelle is simply providing the framework for a story that may essentially be Anderson’s discussion of “What does it all mean?”
Often feeling to be as much of an art installation as a film, Heart of a Dog clocks in at only 75 minutes. Some have described it as brisk, while my experience was much more like a winding road or a journey that took it’s time getting where is wanted to be. Yet, this isn’t to say it felt plodding or slow, per se. It felt deliberate, while also somewhat stream of consciousness, somehow cramming in tons of ideas, big and small. How the connections were made between topics and thoughts, I sometimes didn’t know, yet it always felt seamless, despite my not being able to put my finger on why.
Despite this type of film being something outside of my typical wheelhouse, I did find myself interested most of the time and I did enjoy the ride. Others who are more appreciative of art film or experimentation with various forms of media are likely to fall head over heals with this film. And if that sounds like you, there’s no better way to see the film than this home video release.
This Director-Approved Special Edition comes with an alternate soundtrack with no music, a new interview with the director and the producer, concert footage of Anderson’s Concert for Dogs, deleted scenes, a Christmas card from Lolabelle, and a trailer. In addition to these features, included is a film essay from Glenn Kenney of the New York Times.