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Film review: Wiener-Dog – dog lovers should look away from Todd Solondz’s cruel masterpiece

The American writer-director casts an unforgiving eye over humanity while dishing out his trademark pestilent humour as we follow the life of a loveable dachshund shunted between various owners

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 July, 2017, 11:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 July, 2017, 11:00am

4/5 stars

After losing his way with the underwhelming Dark Horse, Todd Solondz is back to his savage best with Wiener-Dog, an episodic movie following the life of a little dachshund.

Solondz has already said that his big inspiration for the film was Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, which viewed mankind through the eyes of a beleaguered donkey. If you’ve seen any of Solondz’s earlier work, such as Happiness, you’ll know what you’re in for.

Dubbed “Wiener-dog” by his first owner, a nine-year-old cancer survivor named Remi (Keaton Nigel Cooke), this loveable canine begins his screen life by spraying his new home with diarrhoea, accompanied by the calming strains of Debussy’s Clair de Lune. It is typical Solondz, as is the scene where Remi’s mother (Julie Delpy) bluntly explains to her son about how their previous pet was brutally raped by a stray dog named Mohammed.

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Soon, Wiener-dog is shunted between various people, including Solondz’s frequent character Dawn Wiener (now played by Greta Gerwig), who is as isolated and put-upon as she’s ever been. Later he comes into the possession of Danny DeVito, a failed screenwriter turned teacher whose students turn on him, before winding up with Ellen Burstyn’s curmudgeonly grandmother and her greedy offspring (Zosia Mamet).

Those who find Solondz’s pestilent humour distasteful will certainly find no respite here – and dog lovers are especially warned to keep away. The writer-director casts an unforgiving eye over humanity that feels desperately close to the bone. As ever, his characters are subject to petty torments and the cruelty of others, but it’s a unified vision from Solondz that truly stings.

Wiener-Dog opens on July 13

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