out of Five
Running time: 78
Watchable, well made documentary that's essentially like leafing through a scrapbook and being surrounded by dogs, while Weber tells you stories, reads you poems, plays you music and shows you film clips.
What's it all about?
Photographer-slash-film-maker Bruce Weber's latest film is framed as a letter to his beloved dog True, one of several adorable golden retrievers Weber owns - the others (Palomino, Big Skye, Rain, Polar Bear, Guy, Cloud, Sailor, Hope, Whizzy, Jake and Tyson) all receive onscreen credits as the "stars" of the movie.
However, the film is more than just Weber's dog-centric home movies – instead, Weber interweaves several of his personal obsessions, including: 50s and 60s music; home movies of Dirk Bogarde (who became a friend) in Provence; conversations with fellow dog-lover Elizabeth Taylor; and Weber's (and True's) reactions to 9/11, Vietnam, Haiitian refugees, poetry (read by Julie Christie and Marianne Faithfull), Martin Luther King and Lassie movies.
A Letter To True would make an interesting companion piece to Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg, because it shares the scrapbook-like approach to memory and the cataloguing of obsessions. The result is an undeniably self-indulgent film, but it's nonetheless fascinating, particularly when Weber talks about Bogarde.
There are some amusing sequences (if, perhaps, a few too many shots of dogs on surfboards) and Weber occasionally unearths the odd surprise, such as a lengthy courtroom clip from a Lassie movie, in which a pivotal disaster turns out to have taken place on September 11th.
Admittedly, not all of the sequences work – it's hard to see the point of a beautiful, topless model frolicking about with a camera, for example, unless it was included purely for titillation. Similarly, there's a sequence with an American farming family and their dogs that seems out of place, or at least unexplained – are they Weber's neighbours? Did they breed some of his dogs?
In short, A Letter to True is a watchable, well assembled and occasionally amusing memoir, though it may be a little too self-indulgent for some tastes.