Often, when I go to see a movie at the Gene Siskel Film Center, it's an experience somewhat akin to eating one's vegetables -- nourishing to the intellect, but not necessarily pleasant. Tonight, however, when I stopped by on a monthly pilgrimage in the name of maximizing the utility of my membership there, I saw a film so delightful that it made me genuinely sad that it won't be getting a wider release so I can take my friends and family to see it again. In fact, the moment I got home I checked Netflix to see if it was available on DVD so I could share it with others, but no such luck.
The movie I saw was My Dog Tulip, an animated feature based on the 1956 novel of the same name by British author and BBC editor, J.R. Ackerly. Employing an illustrative style evocative of the iconic cartoons in The New Yorker, My Dog Tulip frankly and honestly portrays the joys and pitfalls of one man's relationship with his dog. Scatological humor abounds (the main reason why I know my family would appreciate it), as Joe, the main character describes numerous instances in which he has been inconvenienced by the bowel habits of his beloved companion. He also lovingly details the way in which Tulip marks her territory in a scene so uproariously funny, I actually can't remember the last time I laughed so hard at a movie.
In another arc of his relationship with Tulip, he seeks to maximize her happiness by finding her a mate and allowing her what he presumes to be the pleasures of sex and motherhood. Instead, he finds his bitch to be extraordinarily picky, and she rejects each of his pure-blood offerings in favor of the neighborhood mongrel. In the end, the act of procreation terrifies her, and Joe later finds himself heartbroken and guilt-ridden as he must separate her from her puppies and give them away to owners of dubious quality. The lesson Joe seems to take away from the entire escapade is that he and Tulip are the perfect companions for one another, entirely on their own.
Truly, I feel like this film is a must-see for anyone who has ever loved a dog, or ever been unconditionally in love whatsoever. Joe loves Tulip despite all of her faults, and Tulip returns that love with her loyalty and unfettered admiration. Joe may never have found the "ideal friend" he searched for his entire life in human form, but he did find the perfect companion for him in Tulip. My Dog Tulip manages to be lighthearted and deeply moving at the same time, and if you can catch it at a screening in your town, or locate a copy on DVD, I would deem it well worth your time and effort.