Tuesday, 2 December 2014

REVIEW - THE DOG (ALLISON BERG AND FRANK KERAUDREN)


A good story was enough to get John Wojtowicz through life - why can't it be enough to get us through a movie? Gratifyingly, it is, as Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren obligingly exploit the life and times of Mr. Wojtowicz in an appropriately sensationalistic manner that the man himself would likely have approved of. The Dog is an engrossing documentary, a thrilling, funny and, indeed, good story told with vigour and a generous amount of humour, wryly evoking Wojtowicz's own character in relating his tale. A brash, unhinged individual, his outrageous lifestyle reached its peak when he attempted a notorious bank robbery to pay for his partner's gender reassignment surgery - an attempt that was adapted into film as Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon, and an attempt on which Wojtowicz capitalised for fame and finance until his ignominious end at the hands of cancer. So there it is, a boisterous and engaging film with a sombre, sorrowful conclusion. Nothing new, alas, and that's a shame, since the opportunities for stylistic invention are plentiful with such a damn good story, and also the breadth of Berg and Keraudren's investigation into it: few filmmakers are granted so many interviews, and in such depth, with so many of their film's subjects, and so shortly before the passing of so many of them. But what of it? It's a good story, and that's enough to get any one of us through a movie like The Dog, isn't it? Aforementioned interviews are fascinating, especially those with John's mother, which are needlessly (and thus insultingly) subtitled; the rest of the film is lacking somewhat in the same innate energy and insight.