2010 // USA // Paul and Sandra Fierlinger // November 14, 2010 // Theatrical Print (Hi-Pointe Theater)
It's likely that eight exasperating years with an unruly, peculiar basset hound primed me to embrace My Dog Tulip at its most elemental level. In adapting J.R. Ackerley's memoir about his autumnal years with his beloved German Shepherd, first-time feature directors Paul and Sandra Fierlinger have created a tender, eccentric portrait aimed squarely at the hearts of dog lovers. The film's scratchy, hand-drawn lines and gorgeously painted backgrounds establish its tone of dry wit, while the stranger flourishes--doodles that anthropomorphize the dog characters, an amusing visual digression on Zeus and Europa, beachfront houses as giant picture postcards--provide its most memorable moments. Still, the film functions most potently as a romantic (yet unglamorous) paean to the mystery of our relationships with dogs. While the Fierlingers elide Ackerley's homosexuality, they never gloss over the unseemly aspects of dog ownership: the barking, pissing, shitting, humping, and unremitting destruction. Indeed, the challenge of life with Tulip is what makes Ackerley's tale and his unflagging adoration of his companion so endearing. Viewers who feel that the perfect devotion of a canine trumps any quantity of infuriating misbehavior and disgusting excretions will find an ideal expression of that sentiment in this warm little film.