A missed MIFF film, thanks be to ACMI for screening some MIFF gems well before they might get a Nova season (or not). Heart of a Dog is Laurie Anderson’s rumination on death, wrapped loosely around stories of her dog Lolabelle. It is spoken word and a moving montage of illustrations, painterly home movies and text, seeming to skitter from one thought to another.
Lolabelle is like a child and we see a dog’s eye view of her West Village, privileged, oddball life. Lolabelle plays the piano and paints but there is a wryness to the telling that keeps us on side. Anderson talks of dreams and storytelling, picking her way through her own mind to pull apart the rational and irrational responses to grief. There are some jewel-like stories – the hospital, the ice – that show how powerful the preservation of self can be and the force of relationships.
It’s an odd movie and all the way through I was wondering what the point of it was, where it was going. It is fragmentary and meandering, at times superficial, at others obtuse, but there is something about the overall patchwork that only emerges at the end. The purpose, that has drifted in and out of focus, finally resolves and we see that this is not about a dog at all. It is about having the heart to live and love and to let go.