Contributing Writer; Toronto, Canada (@triflic)
Poetry comes from strange places.  After all, who would have guessed that a diary of a lonely gay man about the trials and tribulations of his dogs bodily excretions would be as charming, warming and yes emotional as achieved here.  I have not read J.R. Ackerley's novel (diary?) on which My Dog Tulip was based, but part of me wants to after seeing this wonderful adaptation.  The film version, I am told, was animated 'without substrate.'  That is to say that the process was digital,  using a light stylus direct to screen by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger who are veterans of doing documentary animations and short films (one nominated for an academy award in 1980, suggesting that yea, Fierlinger has been doing this sort of thing for some time).  My first experience with their work (he draws, she shades) was reminiscent of the cinema of Bill Plympton, only a tad more pastel-shaded and aristocratic, but still 'handmade'.  I mean that both visual and narratively. 

I do not like dogs.  In fact, I am like some of the troublemakers in the movie insofar as my attitude towards the beasts.  After sitting with this film, I had a warm and fuzzy feeling, and fully understand why so many people go through all the troubles and challenges of dog ownership.  Good movies should offer experiences and points of view that are not a part of your own everyday existence, and they should not all have to be gangsters action heroes and space explorers.  The down-to-details rewards are many, and the film offers profundities on a life well lived (with a dry British wit) in the process.

Our dog owner acquires an 'Alsatian bitch' mainly because he is over 50, alone and lacking the energy or the desire to cultivate friendships of the human kind.  He is a vigorous and loquacious speaker, voiced by none other than Canadian National Treasure, Christopher Plummer.  And doggie scatology and every last detail about canine sex are visualized with rhythm beauty and comedy.  When festival programmer Colin Geddes casually mentioned over beers one evening that the film delved into the sex life of a dog, I was unprepared to have this be two thirds of the running time!  Yet is never offered for cheap laughs (even as Tulip is anthropomorphized into a bipedal creature with a dress!), offering a dignity to the whole proceedings along with a healthy dollop of warmth.  Urination carried out with joy and grace?  Check.  Discussion (with hand gestures) of tight foreskins and 'mounting bitches?' Check.  Friendship is perhaps holding your partners head hair out of the way as they vomit.  You have to go so much further than this with a dog in heat.  Yet the loyalty and unequivocal friendship (and need) seems worth it after viewing this one.

Dog lovers will shit themselves.

[On an amusing side note, Isabella Rossellini can add 'dog porn' to her bug and crustacian porn playing at this years TIFF, as she (and the lovely Ms. Lynn Redgrave) provided supporting voices, making this perhaps the most distinguished celebrity voice cast in an animated film ever.  Suck it Dreamworks.]

My Dog Tulip

  • Paul Fierlinger
  • Sandra Fierlinger
  • J.R. Ackerley (book)
  • Paul Fierlinger (screenplay)
  • Sandra Fierlinger (screenplay)
  • Christopher Plummer
  • Lynn Redgrave
  • Isabella Rossellini
  • Peter Gerety
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Paul FierlingerSandra FierlingerJ.R. AckerleyChristopher PlummerLynn RedgraveIsabella RosselliniPeter GeretyAnimationDrama

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