10/10/2016

Wiener Dog - Style & Eccentricity

Quick Thoughts: Wiener Dog

A story in 4 parts following a dog from one strange owner to another.


This isn't a through-and-through bad film. It's not funny. Not at all. The first quarter is absolutely terrible. The acting here is by far the worst, the editing only emphasises this, setting up a film you have no interest at all in. The second part is slightly better with the veterinary nurse having slightly endearing traits and so a stronger draw. After this we come to a segment with Danny DeVito which is by far the best part of the film. After this we then end on an ok sequence. That's a terrible review, but think of it not as one, instead, an overview for us to sink slightly deeper into this film. So, why did I watch this film... I honestly don't know. I stumbled upon it and now here we are. Nonetheless, within this film I saw a lesson on directorial style. In fact, an artistic style of any kind when it comes to film. From Jeunet to Anderson to Hitchcock to Truffaut, every director has a style. Some, like Jeunet, Lanthimos or Anderson, have a particularly distinguished style. Whereas the Kubricks, Hitchcocks, Tarantinos or Goddards also do, their styles, whilst prominent, aren't at the forefront of their movie. It's the story that sits in the foreground with all those even slightly interested in film able to pick up on who directed it. In other words, their names are largely a draw to their movie, an implied promise of a certain quality, possibly genre. Now, coming back to the likes of Wes Anderson and Yorgos Lanthimos, we come to very interesting story tellers. Their stories are poignant, but, just as embellished and pronounced as their style of story telling. Anderson uses themes of eccentricity within understood confines - such as family. Lanthimos also deals with eccentricity, but in an existential world where everyone seems to the be insane. These styles work because they're balanced with the myriad of other elements in their respective narratives. There is an essential handling of tone that stabilises the exuberant style of said directors. Taking this in hand, let's look at Wiener Dog. We have eccentricity and a clear intent to comment on film through comedy - a crude compounding of Lanthimos' and Wes Andersons' stylistic intent if you want to see it of such. However, whatever the intended commentary of this film was by having the same dog (I think) passed down between these owners, picking up on controversial current topics/events - racism, identity, rape, violence, depression, immigration, death, art, pretense, show business... the list goes on--whatever the intention was with this strange narrative, it wasn't realised, it wasn't presented in a way worth paying any attention to. This all comes down to direction. We see a particular nuance in how things are lit, in how they are framed - just as we might in a Wes Anderson film. We also see a nuance in characterisation, in strange behaviors - just as we might in a movie by Yorgos Lanthimos. But, there is way too much movement, both in plot and in action, during the first act. There's a blur of things happening, stupid, hyperbolic things that draw attention to themselves like the punchline of a bad joke.

However, there is a huge turn-around with the Danny DeVito sequence. Why? How? Everything becomes silent, concentrated, you feel like you're watching a real movie. This is because the style of the director doesn't become jarring. Solondz's, the director's, preference in framing, lighting, even acting and writing is still implemented - but he melds it into the tone of the movie all the better. By taking the movement of the plot and action from the narrative, the beat and rhythm of the visual style is allowed to drive the ship, is allowed to take over. This ultimately concentrates the narrative, constructing a much more balanced and worth-while cinematic experience. So, in the end, the message of this film to any filmmaker is not to stop developing your voice and to copy the classics and the breakthroughs, rather to work on your voice, your preference, develop a style as eccentric as you want - but work to fit all you evolve to be and create into the appropriate narrative. For Todd Solondz, it seems he'd be much better off working with a slower paced movie with much subtler comedic commentary and more emotional weight as to justify characterisation. For everyone else, trial and error - maybe a bit of luck.





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