It has been said that the Cannes film festival is going to the dogs, something which will quite literally happen this Friday, as critics meet to award the best on screen performance by a canine: the Palm Dog. The kitsch award, which is twinned with its British counterpart, the Fidos, is backed by a string of renowned critics, including Charles Gant, James Christopher, and Derek Malcolm, all with their tongues firmly in their cheeks.
But Palm Dog founder Toby Rose claims that animal contribution to celluloid deserves recognition. He says no other animal can captivate an audience like a dog, none is so trainable, and none is so willing to permit humans to project all their sickliest emotions onto them.
Whenever scriptwriters hit a narrative roadblock, he says, what better way to explain a character’s motivation than to insert a handy monologue to a pet dog. Dogs can be used to tackle more controversial and serious issues, he points out, such as 1982’s White Dog, which is based on a true story in which a US writer adopts a stray which has been trained to attack only black people.
However, they are generally used for comic effect, which can distract viewers from the quality of the film, said critic Charles Gant. “Was Frank the singing pug an important plot element in Men In Black II? No. But was he the best thing about the movie? Oh, yes,” he said.
Last year, the Palm Dog was awarded jointly to Mid Road Gang, a Thai film about street dogs in Bangkok, and Persepolis, the Iranian animated film now receiving critical acclaim in the UK.
This year’s contenders for the top prize, a brass-studded black leather collar, include the dog which licks Julianne Moore in the opening sequence of Fernando Meirelles’ film Blindness; the pet of Michelle Williams’ character in Wendy and Lucy, whose departure for the pound contributes to her emotional breakdown; and a vicious dog in Lake Tahoe by Mexican director Fernando Eimbcke.
Mr Rose said: “Dogs are crucial to films and yet they are totally overlooked. This year I’m very excited about the dog that kisses Julianne Moore.”
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