Coming in to Fantastic Fest I have to admit that Dog wasn’t on my radar. I like cinema a fair bit, but the posters and the description did nothing for me. In fact, I only ended up at Dog because my friend Bobby Miller’s short End Times premiered before it. Still, I went into it with an open mind as a critic, and I definitely have a few things to say about it.
Dog follows Jacques Blanchot (Vincent Macaigne) who is kind of a people pleasing schlub. At the start of the film his wife claims to have an illness that makes her allergic to him. As such Jacques is forced from his home. In an attempt to connect with his kid, that doesn’t care for him either, he goes to buy a dog, along with accessories and training. Unfortunately the dog quickly dies. In his lost sense of self he actually goes to the dog training alone, where he takes the place of an absent training dog. This starts a path towards his transformation to a dog.
So I’m going to stop right here and say I honestly didn’t care for Dog. Quite honestly I don’t like a film where every character except the main character are self serving assholes. They’re not even the fun antihero sort of asshole. They just use and abuse Jacques, and his nature gets him to go along with it. His character really doesn’t show any change or even personality most of the film. It isn’t until the last few scenes that he does, but by that point its too little too late for me. I would argue he doesn’t even really turn into a dog. He just doesn’t put up with a fight when life treats him like an animal. Its not that I find Macaigne’s performance bad, I just don’t feel he’s given a lot to do. But I won’t say that’s definitively true as there is some openness to the interpretation and a few I spoke to genuinely liked the film and what it was trying to say.
Overall, I actually don’t have a lot more to get into. I guess that Dog is adequately shot, but its very much a dry and naturalist filming style. It does nothing to really help or accent the strangeness of its story. I don’t know any more of writer/director Samuel Benchetrit’s work to compare it to, but I feel this is likely very his style. There are things like random accidents that happen and seem to have no importance. They just seem to be there to add strangeness and nonsequitor humor. And at times that works. But more often than not it really just feels like its trying to prolong the film. Honestly, unless you want something that feels meandering, I can’t recommend it.
Honestly, I feel like Dog was just really not for me. Nor do I feel it was a film for Fantastic Fest. Outside of some dog death (maybe spoilers) it doesn’t fit the Fantastic Fest mold. I gave it what might be a generous score from how negative I’ve been about it. But as I mentioned I’ve spoken to a few who really liked it. One who’s opinion I trust that felt really connected to it. So I can’t slag it off to lower than a 2 because maybe I was in the wrong mood. Or maybe I’m just the wrong person for it.