The Dog Who Wouldn't be Quiet

 

starstar

 


A film which for better or worse can't be categorised.

 
Dog Who Wouldn't Be Quiet

  

In retrospect the strangest thing about this very strange film is the fact that its first quarter of an hour seems so sure-footed and so pleasing. The Dog Who Wouldn't Be Quiet is the first film by Ana Katz that I have seen and it comes from the Argentine. In addition to directing, Katz is the co-writer and the central role, that of Sebastián, is played by her brother, Daniel Katz. The film's opening scenes immediately make sense of the title since Sebastián lives with his dog and is seen being accosted on his doorstep by a neighbour complaining about the noise that the dog makes. Very quickly a second complainant arrives at his door and then a third. It's a scene which in its comic observation - the timing, the placing of the camera - is as precise as that of, say, Jacques Tati but done in a deadpan style that is all its own. It is followed up by an equally rich comic scene in which, having tried to solve the problem by taking the dog to the office where he works as a graphic designer, Sebastián is told that although this is not officially seen as a sacking offence his employment cannot continue if the animal comes in again.

 

Shortly after this, the film quite suddenly changes tone. A dramatic event occurs which leads one to suppose that the aim is to give us some kind of tragi-comedy. Unexpected stylisation at this point is not unacceptable (the event in question is portrayed by way of drawings). However, what doesn't work is the attempt to introduce tragedy into a film which has initially functioned as a laugh-out-loud piece that may echo real life but isn't shot in a manner that allows us to regard it as real enough for the tragic element to blend in. But, if that is a problem, it is what still lies ahead that prevents the piece from coming together in any meaningful way.

 

We now follow Sebastián as he turns to other jobs in other settings and, just as the film itself was shot over some years, the narrative takes us into Sebastián's future. But in doing this it not only becomes highly episodic but presents jumps in time that are often indistinct and leave us groping to understand what the time scale is, what has happened in between these fragmented sections and even from time to time just who is who. Although Sebastián is rarely absent and has a sympathetic presence through the casting of Daniel Katz, the screenplay doesn't offer the detail that would build up his character and make him a fully rounded person for whom we care. It is all too typical of the film that at one stage Sebastián finds work with a collective delivering food but the political issues hinted at here are never adequately clarified. This may influence his outlook and so too may another episode in which he looks after a man who is mute and handicapped but it all feels vague and fragmentary.

 

The Dog Who Wouldn't Be Quiet is tellingly photographed in black and white but as I have indicated it doesn't hold together - and if that is apparent in this middle section of the film it becomes even clearer when the last third brings in a catastrophe on a world scale that carries echoes of life under Covid-19. Dramatic though this is, the details are not without absurdist touches but, unlike the early scenes, they no longer have a comic element. At the same time, this later phase of the film finds Sebastián becoming a husband and, indeed, a father but none of this leaves us with any sense of the purpose behind this odd exercise. True, the film begins and ends with references to nature and to dogs but, even when normal life seems to be returning in the film's closing moments, the conclusion offers only a vague view of life, one that is neither positive nor negative in any meaningful way. It may all be off-beat enough to appeal to some, but, save for the comic pleasure of its early scenes, I was left with but one memorable image: hauntingly pertinent to our times, it shows a baby wearing a huge glass bubble helmet over his head for protection.

 

Original title: El perro que no calla.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Daniel Katz, Valeria Lois, Julieta Zylberberg, Lide Uranga, Raquel Bank, Carlos Portaluppi, Marcos Montes, Mirella Pascual, Elvira Onetto, Susana Varela, Renzo Cozza, Fabiana Martinez.

 

Dir Ana Katz, Pro Ana Katz and Laura Huberman, Screenplay Ana Katz and Gonzalo Delgado, Ph Gustavo Biazzi, Guillermo Nieto, Marcelo Lavintman and Fer Blanc, Pro Des Mariela Rípodas, Ed Andrés Tambornino, Music Nicolás Villamil, Costumes Pilar Gonzalez.

 

Laura Cine/Oh My Gómez!/Cine Argentino-Curzon.
73 mins. Argentine. 2021. Rel: 21 May 2021. Available on Curzon Home Cinema. No Cert.