Comedy is no more subjective than it is in black comedies.
As an anthology experience, we follow one dachshund “Wiener” dog as it moves from one owner to the next by some invisible hand of fate. But each owner has a different story to tell; quirky, lost and disillusioned all of them.
Oh, it’s one of these days, is it? Having reviewed films about psychic serial killer tyres, or a man turning into a lobster, or another man riding a farting corpse like a jetski, I now have an anthology film whose only through-line is a dog.
Independent cinema is a weird place, but sometimes can really make unique and human experiences. Other times, only hardcore film critics who are burnt out from seeing thousands of films can appreciate the surrealist nature of them.
The film Wiener-Dog is a compilation of stories as different people find themselves in ownership of the same dog. At first, it is two reluctant parents (the mother being Julie Delpy) giving the dog as a present to their cancer-recovering son as a means for him to readjust. But the boy, full of childish ignorance and questions, doesn’t appreciate his parents’ (logical and justified) authoritarianism of raising the animal. Within fifteen minutes we as an audience experience a slow pan across a street gutter lined with diarrhea after the son had given the dog granola bars, all the while classical music plays.
Filled with uncomfortable subtexts and a stilted, unorthodox sense of humour, Wiener-Dog really didn’t grow on me. Not the veterinarian nurse who runs away with the dog and a drug abusing ex-Schoolmate, nor the Danny DeVito segment where the familiar star plays a useless screenplay writer. Although I am sure this segment’s meta-humour and DeVito’s presence is why this film has a Certified Fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.
This film is all colours of bizarre. It is ninety minutes long, but includes a ridiculous intermission, Monty-Python style. It has a girl calling the dog “Dooty” before the music starts literally singing “Doo-ty-doo… Doo-ty-Doo,” all after a young boy comes to terms with death.
What is this film!?
It is one of these uncategorised black comedies, a film that no trailer could possibly summarise. But unlike Swiss Army Man or Rubber or Lobster, I couldn’t get it. The film wants to talk to us about being lost in the world, about feeling alone and with a lack of purpose… I think? It is also designed in such a deliberate way, in such an earnest way, that any “faults” are surely boons, it is very self-aware and perhaps even brilliant to some?
I don’t particularly like dogs either, so that didn’t help.
Right at the end though, the film got my sense of humour, finally. So there’s that!
I am sure there’s a lot of critics out there super-analysing this film and detecting the more nuanced details, but for me… it was too haphazard and ultimately too tediously surreal for me to appreciate fully. I didn’t laugh at it, I didn’t feel any swell of emotion or deeper understanding of the human condition… it was just unorthodox.
Additional Marshmallows: Thanks to the Cinema Cocoa reader who brought this to my attention… I think.