Laurie Anderson— the long-celebrated artist and musician, who recently made an acclaimed film, “Heart of a Dog”—discusses the genesis of the movie. She also addresses the scope of ideas, feelings and themes coursing through the movie: “Heart of a Dog” is a visually dazzling exploration of stories—how we tell stories, and how those stories (and/or their meaning) can change over time—mated with a rumination on death (spurred by the passing of her beloved rat terrier, Lolabelle, but alluding to other deaths, including that of her husband Lou Reed), love, childhood, dogs, post 9/11 security and surveillance, and challenges and choices involved in delivering all this in a sleek 75-minute film. When asked about one key concept that popped out in the piece—when her meditation teacher advised “you should learn how to feel sad without being sad”—Anderson replies that it ended up not being that difficult to navigate that emotional distinction, and doesn’t think it should be that difficult for others to do so. In addition to being showered by rave reviews, “Heart of a Dog” has received other significant kudos, including being nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary, and—the day before the “Talking Animals” interview—it was announced to be on the shortlist of finalists for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. She responds to my observation that while “Heart” is a singular film, it seemed surprising initially to see it considered a documentary—which, arguably, it both is and isn’t. Anderson outlines what working on the film has done for her—how it’s changed her—both as a person who’s experienced multiple major losses, and as an artist stepping for the first time all the way into the filmmaking world. She also spends some time talking about Elizabeth Weiss, the extraordinary dog trainer who worked closely with Lolabelle, including teaching the dog to play piano as she was going blind and later, as Lolabelle became more frail, teaching her to paint. Anderson mentions her current dog, Will, who has a cameo, and quickly points out he does not play the piano or paint. (www.laurieanderson.com, www.heartofadogfilm.com)
ALSO: I spoke briefly with Tracey Stewart, the author of “Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide To How Animals Live, and How We Can Make Their Lives Better,” a wide-ranging book that addresses everything from how to read a dog’s body language, to how to make a squirrel feeder. We discuss the book, as well as the plans that she and her husband, Jon—the former host of “The Daily Show”—recently announced that their farm in New Jersey would become the fourth location of Farm Sanctuary. (www.farmsanctuary.org/)
COMEDY CORNER: Bill Burr’s “Dog Trainer” (www.billburr.com)
MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” Laurie Anderson’s “Animals Are Like People,” instrumentals
NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play Name That Animal Tune today.
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