Author, broadcaster and dog lover, J.R. Ackerley was a man in need of a pooper-scooper.
His 1956 book My Dog Tulip explored his relationship with a German Shepherd bitch in affectionate, unsentimental terms. This unusual animation might be exactly the vehicle to bring his work to the screen.
Forget recent family-friendly doggy movies. Yes, Tulip is a film about a grumpy bachelor introduced to the world’s wonders by his pet, but no, you shouldn’t bring the kids. The wonder of this bachelor often manifests as ruminations on dog faeces. You don’t get that in Marley & Me.
Ackerley’s inner thoughts are rendered in impressive – often revolting – detail by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger. They’ve used paperless animation technology to create a lively sketch-like style that’s perfect for exploring the mind of a writer.
Even better, the Fierlingers’ visuals often bring additional humour to Ackerley’s words. The choir singing, “you smell my arse, I smell yours” is a memorable touch.
Like all the best canine literature, Tulip is as revealing about people as it is about dogs. Despite his avowed disinterest in twolegged companions, Ackerley’s obsession with finding Tulip a “husband” underscores the lack of intimacy in his own life.
Indispensable to the animation’s sense of scholarly silliness is Christopher Plummer’s voice as Ackerley, but Lynn Redgrave also deserves credit for voicing sister Nancy.
The final performance before her death last year, Tulip won’t be remembered as Redgrave’s crowning achievement, but it does make for a charmingly offbeat finale to an eclectic career.
“Man’s best friend” doesn’t get near to describing the complexity of this animated bond. More Harold And Maude than Marley & Me; amusing, insightful and a little perverse.