Noth­ing but the dog and me

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Casey Sanchez The New Mex­i­can

My Dog Tulip, an­i­mated mem­oir, not rated, The Screen, 3 chiles

INear­ing 50 and burned out on a life­time of fiz­zled trysts, Bri­tish writer J.R. Ack­erly found a love that was true and un­con­di­tional — an 18-month old fe­male Al­sa­tian dog named Tulip.

“She of­fered me what I had never found in my sex­ual life, con­stant, sin­gle-hearted, in­cor­rupt­ible, un­crit­i­cal de­vo­tion. She placed her­self en­tirely un­der my con­trol,” writes Ack­erly. “From the mo­ment she es­tab­lished her­self in my heart and my home, my ob­ses­sion with sex fell wholly away from me. The pubs I had spent so much of my time in were never re­vis­ited, my sin­gle de­sire was to get back to her, to her wait­ing love and un­stal­ing wel­come. ... The 15 years she lived with me were the hap­pi­est of my life.”

Those 15 years are the sub­ject of My Dog Tulip, an an­i­mated film di­rected by hus­band-and-wife team Paul and San­dra Fier­linger. The hand-drawn com­puter an­i­ma­tion has a light, im­pres­sion­ist touch. Us­ing an­i­ma­tion soft­ware called TVPaint, San­dra Fier­linger cre­ated bright, airy back­drops, avoid­ing the peril of film­ing in the gray skies of Eng­land and lend­ing the pic­ture a jovial qual­ity. Some of the film’s more del­i­cate scenes are even cap­tured with noth­ing more than (com­puter-as­sisted) ink draw­ings on lined notebook pa­per.

There is no com­pli­cated plot. A man adopts a dog who wins his heart, trashes his apart­ment, and, over a pe­riod of sev­eral years, re­fuses nearly all of­fers to breed with po­ten­tial male dog suit­ors. Like all dog sto­ries, it ends with the un­timely death of an an­i­mal that scarcely ever lives two decades.

This charm­ing film’s ap­peal lies in its abil­ity to give quicks­ketch il­lus­tra­tions of Ack­er­ley’s lively prose, nar­rated in a stately fash­ion by Christo­pher Plum­mer. For in­stance, as Tulip plows through the nar­ra­tor’s liv­ing room, up­turn­ing pro­duce and sofa cush­ions, Ack­er­ley takes the whole scene in stride, an­nounc­ing in sub­tly lav­ish prose that “she be­comes so hys­ter­i­cally ex­cited

at the mere hint of be­ing taken out for a walk, that she rushes into the kitchen to grab the veg­eta­bles and scat­ters them all about the cor­ri­dor as if they were rose petals mark­ing her as­cen­sion to heaven.”

Baf­fled for years by her outrageous an­tics, Ack­er­ley even­tu­ally learns the source of his dog’s anx­i­ety from a forth­com­ing fe­male ve­teri­nar­ian. “Tulip’s a good girl, I saw that at once. You’re the trou­ble,” the ve­teri­nar­ian in­tones. “Well, she’s in love with you, that’s ob­vi­ous. And so life’s full of wor­ries for her. She has to pro­tect you to be­gin with; that’s why she’s up­set when peo­ple ap­proach you. I ex­pect she’s a bit jeal­ous too.” Though the film only makes pass­ing ref­er­ence to the writer’s ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, it is clear that Tulip is the an­swer to much of the lone­li­ness the openly gay writer suf­fered in the much-re­stricted world of Eng­land in the 1950s.

This is a very adult film. The pro­tag­o­nist is world-weary, tired of both com­mit­ment and lone­li­ness yet striv­ing al­ways to make deep con­nec­tions with other hu­man be­ings, even if they are nearly al­ways about his dog. It is also a film self-con­sciously steeped in its own Bri­tish­ness, as demon­strated by the quote that be­gins this movie, “Un­able to love each other, the English turn nat­u­rally to dogs.”

Ack­er­ley’s 1965 book was widely praised for con­vey­ing the world of his dog, in a sort of re­verse an­thro­po­mor­phism. This movie adap­ta­tion doesn’t fail in this re­spect. As in Ack­er­ley’s novel, there is a deep fas­ci­na­tion with the scat­o­log­i­cal work­ings of dogs. Tulip’s im­pacted anal glands, drop­pings, and mark­ing habits are given lengthy treat­ment. There is no shock value here, sim­ply a cu­ri­ous dog owner hop­ing to un­der­stand how this fas­ci­nat­ing beast works.

There is con­sid­er­able screen time given over to Ack­er­ley’s search for a suit­able mate with which to breed Tulip. The poor dog seems to at­tack nearly all her male suit­ors be­fore find­ing love — or its ser­vice­able an­i­mal sub­sti­tute — with a stray dog in a park. How the pro­tag­o­nist deals with her pup­pies, at one point plot­ting to drown them in his bath­tub, seems capri­ciously cruel. (He in­stead chooses to drown his sor­rows in drink.) Need­less to say, de­spite its whim­si­cal an­i­ma­tion, this is a far cry from

or Mar­ley & Me. In­stead, it’s a philo­soph­i­cal med­i­ta­tion on the hu­man and canine need for com­pan­ion­ship and their baf­fling ca­pac­ity to mis­un­der­stand one an­other. As Ack­er­ley’s no-non­sense vet put it, “Dogs aren’t dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand. One has to put one­self in their po­si­tion.”

An at­tack of Tulip­ma­nia? My Dog Tulip

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.