I’m a cat person, but I understand and accept that animal companionship comes in many different forms. And while I prefer not to consort with canines — they can be smelly, moist and occasionally dangerous from time to time — I’ve been told that some humans love them nonetheless.
In My Dog Stupid (Mon Chien Stupide, now playing at the Virtual Roxie), a monstrous mutt personifying the most unpleasant of canine characteristics brings chaos to the family of struggling writer Henri Mohen. Henri (played with grim determination by writer-director Yvan Attal) was once a best-selling author whose first novel broke sales records and won awards; since then he’s penned three terrible novels and film scripts that, he claims, he’ll “deny any connection too until the day I die”.
Henri’s family life is even less satisfying than his creative one. Wife Cecile (Attal’s real-life spouse Charlotte Gainsbourg, wonderful as always) is, if not exactly estranged, quite distant from her husband; his four late teen and adult children a wretched quartet Henri would “happily trade for a new Porsche.” Perhaps worst of all, his beloved bull terrier has recently been killed by the neighborhood doberman, leaving him near friendless.
Into this nest of smoldering unhappiness comes Stupid, a stray Neapolitan mastiff who invites himself into the house and immediately alienates everyone in the family — except Henri, who slowly begins to admire the dog’s ability to drive his annoying offspring away from him. Soon enough, the house is almost empty — and Henri’s writer’s block has become a thing of the past.
As wry and amusing — and, at times, surprisingly moving — as Attal’s dialogue is, the largely silent pup delivers the film’s star turn. Monstrous, gray and blessed with jowls that undulate across the screen like a giant tennis-playing blancmange, this dog is something else: it’s a sin he remains uncredited, because he deserves some recognition. It’s a shame the PATSY Awards are no longer a thing.
The United States has long since admitted its role in the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. The British government, however, continues to keep mum regarding their involvement, which is where Coup 53 (screening for one day only at Pacific Film Archive on Wednesday, Aug. 19) comes in.
Directed by Iranian emigre Taghi Amirani, Coup 53 pulls back the curtain on Norman Darbyshire, the mysterious agent most responsible for bringing down Mosaddegh and replacing him with the Shah in order to protect Britain’s oil interests. It’s a fascinating story, and as relevant as ever, with the blowback — the Islamic Revolution of 1979 — still obsessing America’s foreign policy elite in the 21st century. This is the best investigative documentary since last year’s Cold Case Hammarskjold.
Finally, Apocalypse ’45 (screening virtually at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood) does for World War II’s Pacific theater what Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old did for the Great War’s Western front. Featuring interviews with two dozen nonagenarian and centenarian veterans and two hours worth of previously unseen (and color, or colorized) footage that wasn’t suitable for the home front while the war was on, it’s often grueling stuff. This is a must-see for WW II buffs, but you’ll probably want the kids to give this history lesson a miss.