Laurie Anderson’s film Heart of a Dog will be shown at Guild Hall in East Hampton on Thursday, August 11 at 8 p.m. Heart of a Dog has been shown at film festivals all over the world and was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2015. Anderson is an avant-garde artist, composer, musician and film director who was married to the late musician Lou Reed. The screening at Guild Hall coincides with Anderson’s concert for dogs at Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton on Saturday, August 13 at 5 p.m.
What drove you to make your first feature film?
I did a concert film a long time ago and I do a lot of films for live shows, but this is the first standalone feature film. The film was commissioned by Arte TV, a French-German television channel and they asked me to do a film about why I work. And I said ‘Oh boy, that’s a really tough question.’ I started out trying to talk about that. I decided I wanted to tell some stories because that’s what I do and I wanted to make a film about why we write stories.
What made you want to screen the movie at Guild Hall?
I’m going to be doing my concert for dogs at Longhouse on August 13, and they said let’s show the film and then do the concert, so we’re trying to connect those two events. They share a few things—dogs and music—that’s why I’m screening it now. I screened it last spring at the Parrish Art Museum, and it’s been on HBO and at a lot of festivals.
What is the film about?
It’s a shaggy dog story about analyzing various ways that you tell stories. A lot of these stories are about what happens when you forget what happens, or when somebody tells your story for you, or when you tell your story too many times and it loses meaning. It’s about what words are and what they do. It’s a series of stories about who you are and who you think you’re talking to. It’s a combination of animation and looped images. There’s some live action but not a lot. It’s not about acting. It’s really about storytelling and imagery, and also letting people come up with their own versions of what things look like.
What was your relationship like with your dog Lolabelle?
The dog in the film is my dog Lolabelle, who played the piano. When she went blind, she just froze. We had to pick her up to go everywhere. I was panicking about what I would do. Then this trainer came by and said ‘well I taught my dogs to play piano.’ And I said ‘why?’ I didn’t want a piano playing dog. But it changed everything for Lolabelle. She started playing for an hour a day. It was fantastic. People would come everyday to watch her play the piano. It was a blast for her, she got really involved in it. Music saved her life, it was really something that gave her a way to be in the world.
What is the significance of the film’s title?
It’s called Heart of a Dog, but it’s about stories. I like it as a vague title. If I were Woody Allen, I would call it “Love and Death,” because that’s what it’s really about. But you see a lot of the film through the eyes of a dog. So the dog is a kind of device. But the way people see is also a device.
How does the film relate to the world today?
You can see it going on right now with the election. It’s story time in the U.S. The elections are all about who tells the best story, and you vote for the person whose story you like the best. So, how does that relate to truth, well we’re not really sure. We all become story analysts around the election. We have to decide if they’re telling the truth. That’s what the film is about.
What made you want to play a concert for dogs?
I had done one concert for dogs before Lolabelle started playing the piano, then I swore I would never do another because I didn’t want to be known as the artist who plays concerts for dogs, but now I am the artist who plays concerts for dogs. This will probably be the last one. It’s really fun to play for animals. A lot of dogs just want to rock. I think it’s a good thing to try to go to Mars, but I think there are a lot of things that we could find out about life on Earth. For example, how to play interesting music to animals.
Catch the screening of Laurie Anderson’s The Heart of a Dog at Guild Hall on August 11 and her concert for dogs at the Longhouse Reserve Amphitheater on August 13. For ticket information for the screening and Anderson’s Concert for Dogs, visit guildhall.org and longhouse.org, respectively.