My Dog Tulip


1h 23m 2009

Brief Synopsis

The 14-year friendship between a man and his rescued German Shepherd.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
NR
Genre
Adaptation
Drama
Release Date
2009
Production Company
Cinemavault Releasing; Norman Twain Productions
Distribution Company
New Yorker Films; Axiom Films; New Yorker Films

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m

Synopsis

The 14-year friendship between a man and his rescued German Shepherd.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
NR
Genre
Adaptation
Drama
Release Date
2009
Production Company
Cinemavault Releasing; Norman Twain Productions
Distribution Company
New Yorker Films; Axiom Films; New Yorker Films

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m

Articles

My Dog Tulip - MY DOG TULIP - Paul and Sandra Fierlinger's 2009 Animated Feature


One of the more surprising tangential aspects to the recent rise in big-budgeted, all-digital animated films, from the Pixar kingdom to its many, many imitators, including the Shreks, the Ice Ages, the Kung Fu Pandas and so on, is the survival and even blossoming of handmade, semi-digital "personal" animated features. Pixar and Dreamworks may employ armies and chew up hundreds of millions per film, but the same technology, sometimes used in conjunction with old-fashioned cel cartooning, has allowed individual artists to limn idiosyncratic visions on almost no budget at all - such as with Nina Paley's Sita Sings the Blues, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey's The Secret of Kells, Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist, Bill Plympton's Idiots and Angels, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and so on. Certainly, it seems that digital animation has enabled the hermetic idiosyncrats as much as the corporate entertainment factories. Paul and Sandra Fierlinger's My Dog Tulip (2009), new on DVD from the reconstituted New Yorker Films, is a sublime, heady example, drawn by hand on newfangled computer pads, and literally conceived and crafted by a husband and wife team in the solitude of their suburban house.

You can't get less industrial than that. The movie does actually explore the tension between social pressures and willful seclusion, as expressed in painful and hilarious eloquence by its source, Brit author, editor and proto-snob J.R. Ackerley, in his 1956 memoir of the same name. Ackerley's strangely romantic, acerbic book details his 16-year relationship with an "Alsatian bitch" named Tulip (Ackerley's pet was named Queenie, and it's an indication of his peculiar perspective toward the dog and toward the world at large that he renamed her in print, as if to preserve her privacy), and the Fierlinger's film attends carefully to Ackerley's prose, ironic-haughty tone, and the undulating textures of his ruminations, recollections and barbed observations. Their style is ostentatiously sketchy and unstable, looking very much like a cartoonist's impromptu drawing pad, often (during Ackerley's daydreamy descriptions, usually) devolving further into wild and free-hand doodlings. But the filmmakers capture both human fussiness and canine reflexes beautifully, and that strange and lovely aspect of animation - the thing that allows us to accept "reality" as something apparently drawn, and to revel in it empathically - happens in a way that eludes most big-budget, movie-star-voiced kids' epics.

The voice in this case is Christopher Plummer, narrating a bit too plummily at first it seems, but quickly Ackerley's regal, Britishly witty language takes control, and the tale itself is as beguiling as a yarn spun by an old East London uncle in a tweed chair. Simply, Ackerley, a single gay man and loner, decides in middle age to adopt a dog as what he hopes to be his "ideal companion" - and thus begins what Ackerley defines as, simply, the most important and passionate relationship of his entire life. Ackerley himself is no small oddball - a judgmental, busybody shut-in who works for the BBC, unable or unwilling to deal with people generally, and prone to view his human interactions as though they were lurid scenes in Grand Guignol melodramas. The ordinary travails of dog-owning strike Ackerley as fantastical in their intensity and unrelentingly foul - for a line-drawn film My Dog Tulip is exceptionally disgusting, with special attention given to the beast's fecal decisions, swollen anal glands, and even an episode of spontaneous vomiting in a cemetery.

Ackerley's sardonic voice makes outrageous fun of our tendency to anthropomorphize our pets, and in doing so - describing Tulip in very ladylike terms even as she squirms in heat and destroys furniture - comes out the other end, evoking a genuine awed respect for the animal and the role she played in her life. Episodes come and go, although Ackerley's decision to finally mate Tulip - to give her the "full life" he along cannot manage - becomes a huge and pivotal debacle, testing one potential sire (and owner) after another, and suffering the hordes of neighborhood dogs during Tulip's estrus, envisioned by Ackerley as paparazzi waiting in crowds by his front door, and as sailors emptying out of bars once Tulip's sexual scent hits the open air.

For an animated film about a dog, My Dog Tulip positively pulses with sexual preoccupation. (Truman Capote once described Ackerley's book as "one of the greatest books ever written by anybody.") There's the specter of death, too, and separation, and grief - in other words, Ackerley and the Fierlingers both contrive to pack all of the ingredients of an epic soap-operatic saga into a slim, off-hand story about a simple dog and her bewitched owner. But the upshot is not pretentious - the narrative voice is so refulgent, so blithely ironic, and so funny that the grand questions the story makes feel modest and earned. We don't completely buy into Ackerley's cosmic ardor for Tulip, but he doesn't ask us to - he simply asks that we appreciate his humiliating helplessness, as the owner of an impetuous creature to which he is virtually betrothed.

The DVD comes with a welter of ancillary viewing, including a home visit with the Fierlingers (who say they never go out), a look at their next film, downloadable materials, and variety of dog-lover bits and scraps from other media.

To order My Dog Tulip, go to TCM Shopping.

by Michael Atkinson
My Dog Tulip - My Dog Tulip - Paul And Sandra Fierlinger's 2009 Animated Feature

My Dog Tulip - MY DOG TULIP - Paul and Sandra Fierlinger's 2009 Animated Feature

One of the more surprising tangential aspects to the recent rise in big-budgeted, all-digital animated films, from the Pixar kingdom to its many, many imitators, including the Shreks, the Ice Ages, the Kung Fu Pandas and so on, is the survival and even blossoming of handmade, semi-digital "personal" animated features. Pixar and Dreamworks may employ armies and chew up hundreds of millions per film, but the same technology, sometimes used in conjunction with old-fashioned cel cartooning, has allowed individual artists to limn idiosyncratic visions on almost no budget at all - such as with Nina Paley's Sita Sings the Blues, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey's The Secret of Kells, Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist, Bill Plympton's Idiots and Angels, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and so on. Certainly, it seems that digital animation has enabled the hermetic idiosyncrats as much as the corporate entertainment factories. Paul and Sandra Fierlinger's My Dog Tulip (2009), new on DVD from the reconstituted New Yorker Films, is a sublime, heady example, drawn by hand on newfangled computer pads, and literally conceived and crafted by a husband and wife team in the solitude of their suburban house. You can't get less industrial than that. The movie does actually explore the tension between social pressures and willful seclusion, as expressed in painful and hilarious eloquence by its source, Brit author, editor and proto-snob J.R. Ackerley, in his 1956 memoir of the same name. Ackerley's strangely romantic, acerbic book details his 16-year relationship with an "Alsatian bitch" named Tulip (Ackerley's pet was named Queenie, and it's an indication of his peculiar perspective toward the dog and toward the world at large that he renamed her in print, as if to preserve her privacy), and the Fierlinger's film attends carefully to Ackerley's prose, ironic-haughty tone, and the undulating textures of his ruminations, recollections and barbed observations. Their style is ostentatiously sketchy and unstable, looking very much like a cartoonist's impromptu drawing pad, often (during Ackerley's daydreamy descriptions, usually) devolving further into wild and free-hand doodlings. But the filmmakers capture both human fussiness and canine reflexes beautifully, and that strange and lovely aspect of animation - the thing that allows us to accept "reality" as something apparently drawn, and to revel in it empathically - happens in a way that eludes most big-budget, movie-star-voiced kids' epics. The voice in this case is Christopher Plummer, narrating a bit too plummily at first it seems, but quickly Ackerley's regal, Britishly witty language takes control, and the tale itself is as beguiling as a yarn spun by an old East London uncle in a tweed chair. Simply, Ackerley, a single gay man and loner, decides in middle age to adopt a dog as what he hopes to be his "ideal companion" - and thus begins what Ackerley defines as, simply, the most important and passionate relationship of his entire life. Ackerley himself is no small oddball - a judgmental, busybody shut-in who works for the BBC, unable or unwilling to deal with people generally, and prone to view his human interactions as though they were lurid scenes in Grand Guignol melodramas. The ordinary travails of dog-owning strike Ackerley as fantastical in their intensity and unrelentingly foul - for a line-drawn film My Dog Tulip is exceptionally disgusting, with special attention given to the beast's fecal decisions, swollen anal glands, and even an episode of spontaneous vomiting in a cemetery. Ackerley's sardonic voice makes outrageous fun of our tendency to anthropomorphize our pets, and in doing so - describing Tulip in very ladylike terms even as she squirms in heat and destroys furniture - comes out the other end, evoking a genuine awed respect for the animal and the role she played in her life. Episodes come and go, although Ackerley's decision to finally mate Tulip - to give her the "full life" he along cannot manage - becomes a huge and pivotal debacle, testing one potential sire (and owner) after another, and suffering the hordes of neighborhood dogs during Tulip's estrus, envisioned by Ackerley as paparazzi waiting in crowds by his front door, and as sailors emptying out of bars once Tulip's sexual scent hits the open air. For an animated film about a dog, My Dog Tulip positively pulses with sexual preoccupation. (Truman Capote once described Ackerley's book as "one of the greatest books ever written by anybody.") There's the specter of death, too, and separation, and grief - in other words, Ackerley and the Fierlingers both contrive to pack all of the ingredients of an epic soap-operatic saga into a slim, off-hand story about a simple dog and her bewitched owner. But the upshot is not pretentious - the narrative voice is so refulgent, so blithely ironic, and so funny that the grand questions the story makes feel modest and earned. We don't completely buy into Ackerley's cosmic ardor for Tulip, but he doesn't ask us to - he simply asks that we appreciate his humiliating helplessness, as the owner of an impetuous creature to which he is virtually betrothed. The DVD comes with a welter of ancillary viewing, including a home visit with the Fierlingers (who say they never go out), a look at their next film, downloadable materials, and variety of dog-lover bits and scraps from other media. To order My Dog Tulip, go to TCM Shopping. by Michael Atkinson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 2010

Released in United States Fall September 1, 2010

Released in United States October 2009

Released in United States September 2009

Shown at Pusan International Film Festival (World Cinema) October 8-16, 2009.

Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (World Cinema) April 22-May 6, 2010.

Shown at Toronto International Film Festival (Discovery) September 10-19, 2009.

Based on the novel "My Dog Tulip" written by J.R. Ackerley published by Poseidon Press; February, 1990.

Released in United States September 2009 (Shown at Toronto International Film Festival (Discovery) September 10-19, 2009.)

Released in United States Fall September 1, 2010 (New York City.)

Released in United States October 2009 (Shown at Pusan International Film Festival (World Cinema) October 8-16, 2009.)

Released in United States 2010 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (World Cinema) April 22-May 6, 2010.)