52 Films by Woman – Week 12

So after a few weeks off to transition, and then go to the SXSW film festival, I’m happy to be back with weekly updates with the 52 films by women project.  This week, I finally caught up on Laurie Anderson’s “Heart of a Dog” after Criterion released it online.

Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson, 2015)

Laurie Anderson’s experimental documentary “Heart of a Dog” was something that I’ve been looking forward ton since I started hearing reviews mid last year.  I’ve watched the film twice now, and I’m not sure what exactly I think of it.  I found that most of it was a magnificent meditation, but there were some parts that I found confusing and unnecessary.

Laurie obviously had a lot of passion for her late dog Lolabelle, and the parts focusing on that love were remarkable.  The stories she tells about her experiences with Lolabelle strike a familial chord with anyone who has had a similar love of a pet.  As the film progressed, she started focusing on death as in addition to her dog she had recently lost her mother and husband (Lou Reed).  She imagines the journey that Lolabelle takes through the bardo after her death.

The only part that I found unnecessary and what keeps me from giving it a perfect score is a few seemingly unrelated sections of the film where she discusses the state of New York after 9/11.  I failed to understand what these scenes brought to an otherwise personal story.

The style of the film would not be for everyone.  It is important to remember before going into the film that it is an experimental documentary.  The style fluctuates between sketch animations and staged footage with none of it looking traditionally spectacular, but all fitting appropriately with the style.  Similarly, Laurie Anderson composed the music herself and while I don’t know that I’ll be purchasing the album, it works well.  Slight misgivings about the 9/11 portions aside, the film creates a perfect picture of Anderson’s feelings.

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