14 February 2012

Paul and Sandra Fierlinger's My Dog Tulip (2009)

At the beginning of the animated movie My Dog Tulip by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, based on the 1956 novel of the same name by J. R. Ackerley (1896–1967), there is a quotation from the author: 'Unable to love each other, the English turn naturally to dogs.' The homosexual Ackerley sought what he termed the 'Ideal Friend', but never found one until later in his life when he adopted the Alsation dog Queenie, who formerly belonged to his lover Freddie Doyle, who was serving a prison sentence. The dog replaced Doyle in Ackerley's affection and remained his constant and demanding companion for fifteen years.

An extra on the DVD is a 25-minute documentary 'Making Tulip' by Marjorie Smith, in which Paul Fierflinger makes a number of comments about the movie and its background. He states that Ackerley wrote My Dog Tulip shortly after World War II, and calls it 'a strong condemnation of post-war British society and British middle-class life'. He identifies with the Ackerley quotation in the previous paragraph, as Fierlinger had a loveless childhood in foster homes and boarding school but grew to love animals, especially dogs.

Much of the book, and the movie too, is concerned with urination and defecation, and Fierlinger praises Ackerley's 'beautiful erudite prose' which frequently describes 'dog shit without ever actually using the word'. Copulation is also a major concern, as Ackerley wants to find a suitable dog for her to mate with, although in the end a rough mongrel does the job: is this a comment on Ackerley's sexual partners?

Peter Parker is an authority on Ackerley and assisted the Fierlingers with the authenticity of the dialogue. He notes that Queenie died in 1961, and that the author never completely recovered from it. My Dog Tulip is above all a delightful and touching story of an outsider at last finding love in the ostensibly most simple (but of course actually very complicated) relationship between a man and his dog.

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