Heart of a Dog

Laurie Anderson’s film, Heart of a Dog gets a Criterion release this week. Like most former suburban newly urban 20-somethings during the 80’s, I fell deeply in love with Anderson’s work. For a few years, it was all I could play dissecting the irony and futuristic blending of song, performance and video. Anderson was certainly ahead of her time using video in live performance to tell a story. As the decades pushed forward and personal computing devices became the norm for everyone from rock stars to school children, Anderson’s pioneering skills became accessible to all. And so we find ourselves in the late 2010’s looking at her newest work Heart of a Dog. What used to be cutting edge, now feels like a combination of a YouTube video and reenactment scenes from the History Channel. I’m honestly not saying that to be cruel. The hard fact is that time marches on for us all and I found nothing original in Heart of a Dog. Yes, I’m a dog lover. And yes, I understand the intimate relationship one can have with their companion pets. I also understand the police state we have been creating since the 80’s. I kept waiting for Laurie Anderson to tell me something new. Or at the very least, to tell me something I already knew but in a unique way. For a moment I thought my compulsive viewing habits of the past two decades might have put me off to experimental film. But then I thought of watching Jarman’s Blue, Sticky Fingers of Time, Looking for Langston, DuVernay’s The Door, Poison, even Melancholia. I embraced all the idiosyncrasies of these spectacular films with glee. Not so with Heart of the Dog. After 30 minutes, I said goodbye, turned on YouTube and watched the 1984 video for Sharkey’s Day. Even with its dated 80’s video feel, the words and music still made me sit there in awe. I think I’ll keep my memories of Laurie Anderson right there with the beauty of Mister Heartbreak. As for Heart of a Dog: 2 out of 5. Next.

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