Dogs on Film

This year cinema has offered some treats for fans of dogs on film. I was intending to write a ‘best films of the year’ list, but this seemed so much more important. Here is a list of the most memorable cinematic dogs of 2011. I haven’t seen every film released this year, so there is a chance I have missed the most fantastic dog on film. Therefore, this is a list of the best from films I have seen; feel free to make suggestions in the comments below.

1. Uggy

The Artist is perhaps the finest film released in 2011, and Uggy the finest dog. Irrepressibly cute, this silent movie canine does everything from starring in movies to saving lives. Often a scene stealer, Uggy is integral to The Artist, and undoubtedly adds to the film’s captivating charm.

2. Snowy

It would not be an exaggeration to assert that Snowy is better than his human companion Tintin on all levels in The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn. Snowy is far smarter and more observant than the boy detective, and is miles ahead in terms of natural charisma. Yet Tintin gets all the glory. Go figure.

3. Arthur

The adorable Arthur is the sidekick to Hal and then his son Oliver in Beginners. Arthur talks through the medium of subtitles, which is truly a delight to behold. Arthur’s comments are insightful and sometimes poignant, more than one may expect from a canine companion. Beginners is a great film, and is all the more enchanting with the inclusion of Arthur.

4. Tulip

The honey badger of the list, Tulip has no time for social airs and graces. Instead, Tulip does whatever she likes, sometimes to the displeasure of her owner in My Dog Tulip. Despite her uncouth ways, Tulip proves to be a loyal and affectionate companion, although others who come into contact with her may disagree.

5. Skeletor

The reason Skeletor features on this list is predominantly because he is named after He-Man’s arch nemesis. A retired greyhound, Skeletor is bought as a companion to Adam, who is diagnosed with cancer in 50/50. In spite of his minor role, Skeletor is memorable for his doe-eyed expressions.

Film Review: My Dog Tulip

Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip is a charming film that offers as much from its visuals as it does from its narrative. There is a warmth to the film that is likely to be appreciated by all who view it.

Writer J.R. Ackerley, who lives alone, decides to adopt a German shepherd. Tulip is an excitable animal, and not at all house-trained. Over several years, man and dog become firm friends. Their friendship seems even to outweigh their relationships with others…

My Dog Tulip is based on the story by J.R. Ackerley. His narration guides the story, detailing the relationship between man and dog, and speaking for Tulip. This is ultimately very subjective; the character makes requisite assumptions about the dog’s emotions and about what she may be thinking.

The film is both emotional and pensive. Pet-owners will no doubt see parallels with the onscreen relationship between man and dog. Nonetheless, the friendship between the pair is even more fundamental than this. Even those who do not care for animals will be hard pressed not to be moved by My Dog Tulip. The story is thoughtfully told, offering sentiment and humour. The companionship at the heart of the film is something many strive for, albeit perhaps in a different guise. Moreover, most viewers will be able to empathise with Ackerley’s difficulties in forming attachments to other people. It is only through his relationship with Tulip that the writer is able to experience the closeness that many take for granted.

There are several sequences in the film that break the narrative. These are often amusing, where the protagonist’s imaginings about his canine companion come to life. In some of the sequences, for example, Ackerley imagines Tulip in a humanised form, wearing clothes and carrying a handbag. These breakaways serve to highlight the wonderful imagination of Ackerley himself, as well as the Fierlingers in bringing it to life.

The animation is hand-drawn, and has a very unpolished appeal. The style is at odds with the state-of-the-art animation of Pixar etc, and is refreshingly quaint as a result. The lines around Tulip always look more slapdash than the humans in the film, which serve to accentuate the energy of the dog.

Christopher Plummer is well cast as the voice of Ackerley, suitably situating the film it its period setting. The late Lynn Redgrave brings amusement as Nancy, while Isabella Rossellini is instantly recognisable as kindly vet Ms Canvenini.

My Dog Tulip is a wonderfully imaginative animated film that exudes genuine feeling. A must see for animation fans and dog lovers alike.