Dog’s Dialogue, 1977

Dogs’ Dialogue opens to a shot of an abandoned dog that has been tied to the structural frame of a discarded piece of broken furniture at a derelict open field, territorially barking to ward off an unleashed, stray dog hovering nearby. The image of vicious, primal social interaction carries through to an idiosyncratic visual transition: a sequence of photographic stills presented against the thoughtful, expressive voice of an off-screen narrator (Robert Darmel) as he recounts the tragic tale of a little girl taunted by her classmates who accidentally learns one day that her mother is in fact not her biological mother. The traumatic revelation would inevitably mark the young heroine’s life as she confronts her biological mother in an attempt find to the reason for her rejection only to discover even more heartbreaking evasion and ambiguity in her parental identity. Unable to find closure, Monique (Silke Humel) runs away to Bordeaux in order to escape her past and falls into a reckless, sordid, and emotionally vacuous existence as a prostitution and later, as a kept woman to a wealthy older man. Driven by a pathological attraction towards ephemeral and transitory affection, Monique would stumble through a series of meaningless affairs until an encounter with a television repairman named Henri (Eva Simonet) from her hometown seemingly offers her a glimpse for the possibility of a respectable, normal life away from the streets.

Recalling the photographic fictional essays of Chris Marker (most notably, La Jetée) infused with the tongue-in-cheek, sexual role-reversal chamber melodramas of R. W. Fassbinder (most notably, the staged, hermetic insularity of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and In the Year of 13 Moons), Dogs’ Dialogue is a wryly overwrought and vertiginously intricate, yet intelligently constructed austere comedy on identity, longing, and inextricable destiny. Reducing character interaction and narrative progression into a series of highly formalized essential images supplemented through explicative third-person narration – a playfully synthetic and intentionally self-conscious distillation of the role of the actor that the filmmaker would subsequently re-examine in his integration of tableaux vivants in The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting and Genealogies of a Crime – Raoul Ruiz presents an insightful (and incisive) exposition on the deconstruction of performance in the narrative and thematic development of a film. Ruiz juxtaposes recurring, interstitial active footage of leashed and caged barking dogs and aesthetically (and oppressively) commodified urban landscape of sidewalk barriers, multi-directional road signage, and architecturally identical (and visually interchangeable) high-density residential complexes against the film’s drolly convoluted and infinitely recursive plot (from a script co-written by Nicole Muchnik and Raoul Ruiz) in order to create an intrinsic sense of claustrophobia and inescapability that reflects the characters’ own circumstantial entrapment, anonymity, and existential limbo. It is this pervasive sentimental inertia and illusory search for transcendence that is invariably revealed in the static, lingering snapshots of the dissociated, archetypal characters: a subtly reinforcing image of transitory validation captured within the ephemeral frames of an alienated and impersonal conventional motion picture.

© Acquarello 2005. All rights reserved.