Heart of a Dog: What We Talk About When Tears are Forbidden / by Samuel B. Prime

Late last Sunday afternoon, I went with my friend and preferred wheelwoman Laura to attend an advance press screening of Laurie Anderson's latest essay film, HEART OF A DOG (2015)The film opens in Los Angeles this Friday, November 6th at the Nuart Theatre. You should see it and embrace the possibility to make it a double feature with one of Cinefamily's upcoming repertory bookings of Anderson's HOME OF THE BRAVE (1986).

When we arrived to the screening room, I grabbed a bottle of water and paged through the apparent novelization of EASY RIDER. A modest, yet eccentric, collection of appropriately movie-related books and periodicals were available in the lobby for anyone to peruse prior to showtime. Not nearly enough time for a novel, of course, but just knowing that it exists means that I have added it to the unending list of must-reads. The lights soon dimmed.

Although HEART OF A DOG Initially seems like an amassment of unrelated fragmented thoughts on everything from beloved rat terriers to the tragedy of 9/11, it quickly becomes thoroughly, emotionally clear that the only way for Laurie Anderson to talk about the film's subject by omission, the death of husband Lou Reed, without crying - which, according to Anderson's narration, in Buddhist teaching is forbidden - is to focus on all those thoughts that occurred, whether good, bad, or ugly, to her in the wake of his expiry. The result is a beautiful, erratic essay. At times eerily metaphysical and at others wholesomely terrestrial, the film experience is nothing if not emotionally jostling. Some of Anderson's tertiary connections between ideas approach a kind of new age mysticism that does not personally resonate (ex. reincarnation, the bardo, seeing ghosts) whereas the larger Keatsian principles of beauty above all else and the Wittgenstein quote about language being the limit of one's world made sense.

At its own heart, HEART OF A DOG is a film that presents itself openly and without reservations, knowing that not everything it contains will connect with every viewer. But if and when something sparks, wow, what a feeling! What a memorable experience! The goal is not to see eye to eye with the filmmaker, but for the filmmaker to show us - the actual (mine) and potential (yours) audience - what she has seen, thought, felt, heard, and remembered. What she remembers most is her husband, with whom she shared each word, thought, and deed.

HEART OF A DOG opens on Friday, November 6th at the Nuart Theatre for a weeklong theatrical run.

- Samuel B. Prime

Founder, LA Ciné Salon