Heart of a Dog marks the first feature film by multimedia artist Laurie Anderson in over thirty years. A cinematic tone poem that flows from a sustained meditation on death and other forms of absence, the film seamlessly weaves together thoughts on Tibetan Buddhism, reincarnation, the modern surveillance state, and the artistic lives of dogs, with an elegy for the filmmaker’s beloved rat terrier, Lolabelle, at its heart. Narrated by Anderson with her characteristic wry wit, and featuring a plaintive, free-form score by the filmmaker, the tender and provocative Heart of a Dog continues Anderson’s five-decade career of imbuing the everyday with a sense of dreamlike wonder.
Laurie Anderson has certainly left her permanent imprint on the art and music world ever since the mid 1970s. She is an award winning musician, visual artist, sculptor, actress, and filmmaker. She rose to world-wide fame in the very early 1980s with her hit single 'O Superman', which she followed by her film 'Home of the Brave'. She even worked with and married Lou Reed and was with him until his death in 2013.
Having not made a feature length film since the 1980s, Anderson has entered the filmmaking world yet again with her love poem to her late dog named Lolabelle, which Criterion has chosen to release under its banner with the title 'Heart of a Dog'. This 2015 film feels like a documentary, but is so much more than that as Anderson narrates her thoughts and stream of consciousness on film with a ton of vivid and surreal visuals, all while her lucky dog Lolabelle anchors each segment.
With animation, text, home video, and other forms of video expression, Anderson gives her thoughts on a variety of subjects that she deems important in her life and perhaps how her dog Lolabelle helped her along the way. Some subjects include; religion, reincarnation, the government, life, death, and her experiences during the 9-11 attacks in New York. There is also some home video footage of Anderson and Lolabelle on hikes and even playing instruments. There is no real rhyme or reason to the film as this doesn't follow a typical narrative or even a documentary story line that sets out to accomplish something.
That doesn't mean there isn't anything to see here, because this film feels completely personal. Anderson has poured her heart and soul out here in the only way she knows how, which is through the use of various forms art, and you can see, especially by the end of the film that Lolabelle has helped Anderson cope with loss and depression. Not one subject is ever focused on for too long and when it leaves the screen, it doesn't come up again, giving us the feeling of Lolabelle's short attention span, but never-the-less, in love with Anderson. 'Heart of a Dog' won't be for everyone, although you won't be able to stop smiling at the relationship between Lolabelle and Anderson, but for fans of Anderson's art through the years, you will truly relish and dig deep into this sweet poetic movie.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Heart of a Dog' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Criterion and is Region A Locked. There is a Criterion booklet with an essay by Glenn Kenny, along with information on the crew and technical information on the film. The disc is housed in a hard clear, plastic case with spine #846.
'Heart of a Dog' comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. According to the Criterion Booklet, most of the footage was shot on a Canon 5D Mark II, where other footage came from an iPhone, GoPro, and a Drone camera. The opening animation sequence was hand drawn by Laurie Anderson herself and shot frame by frame on the Canon 5D. This is an interesting video presentation, since it was filmed almost entirely with handheld consumer grade cameras.
Not to mention, Anderson uses a some filters and slight visual effects to hinder the detail and look of the film, meaning some segments are intentionally blurry, full of scratches and debris, and out of focus. Other scenes are full of detail and color where every individual hair on Lolabelle can be seen easily and the beautiful trees on the hike are vivid and sharp. Criterion has done a good job of keeping everything in tack here, letting every imperfection and purposeful ailment shine for the sake of Anderson's art and how she wanted to make us feel.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and according to the Criterion Booklet, this audio track was mastered from the original digital audio master using ProTools HD. Much like the video presentation above, this audio track is all over the place from the various amount of different consumer grade cameras and microphones.
Again, Anderson used some audio tricks to make the mix sound more raw with pops, cracks, and hiss. All of this was intentional. The best sound in the film is Anderson's narration, which is full and perfectly situated on the front speakers. This is not a fully immersive track with tons of explosions or gun shots, but it gets the job done and Criterion has allowed all of Anderson's decisions to shine.
Conversation with Laurie Anderson and Jake Perlin (HD, 41 Mins.) - Anderson and her producer Perlin discuss Anderson's career and her life experiences with Lolabelle. They talk about why she wanted to make the film and how her life has changed because of it. Anderson is one cool, lovely lady.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 3 Mins.) - There are two deleted scenes here, which are worth watching, but don't add anything of value to the overall experience.
Footage of 'Concert for Dogs' (HD, 7 Mins.) - Here is some footage edited together for a concert Anderson put on in Times Square for an audience of dogs.
Lolabelle's Christmas Card (HD, 5 Mins.) - Lolabelle performs some music in this video.
Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - The trailer for the film.
Criterion Booklet - There is a fully illustrated booklet that delivers information on the film, technical aspects, as well as an essay by Glenn Kenny. There is also a small booklet of artwork from Anderson included too.
Laurie Anderson's 'Heart of a Dog' is a love letter to her dog that has helped her through some tragedy in her life. Anderson, being the brilliant artist she is in many mediums, utilizes all of her talents in this film to tell us what she feels about important subjects, as well as how much she loved her dog Lolabelle. Criterion has knocked it out of the park with this release with the video and audio presentations, and the extras are interesting and worth watching. This film isn't for everyone, but you can't help but smile about how a dog can change someone's life. Highly recommended!