Saturday, April 18, 2015

My Dog Tulip

My Dog Tulip is an odd combination of maturity and youthfulness, of crudeness and sophistication. Based on the book by J.R. Ackerley, this hand drawn jewel of animation took three years to complete. It took so long that Christopher Plummer, who played the old man, thought he might die before he had a chance to see the finished film. Fortunately, he decided to accept the part and the world is better for it. And Christopher Plummer is still alive. The character he lends his voice to is an awkward, mumbling, lonely old man, who becomes smitten with his devoted and boisterous dog. “Tulip came into my life and transformed it,” he says. 

Christopher Plummer, in addition to being a brilliant actor, is a dog lover. So is Isabella Rossellini, who plays the kind-hearted veterinarian. I think you have to be a dog lover to love this movie, or at least to understand it and appreciate it to its full extent. Now that I recall Christopher Plummer’s role as the evil explorer Charles Muntz in the movie Up, maybe there’s something about a character who owns dogs that makes certain parts more appealing to him.

In My Dog Tulip, the old man takes to studying the very elemental facets of dog existence. Somehow, he turns these observations about Tulip’s biological functions and mating rituals into the stuff of poetry. Tulip serves as his guide, navigating life with simple instinctual habits. Life really can be this simple. Animal behavior can be analyzed just like our own and the truth that prevails is be happy and love one another. 

When one of the filmmakers, Paul Fierlinger, gave a screening to his animation class at the University of Pennsylvania, he was discouraged by his students’ negative reactions. It’s unfortunate that to many people having a mind for art means judging it before giving it a fair chance. My Dog Tulip is a labor of love that is completely and profoundly original, and when something is so completely original people may not know how to respond. Just have an open mind and a pliable sense of humor.