My Dog Tulip: 3 stars?

I was ho-hum about The Illusionist and an absolute sucker for Waltz With Bashir. So I was bound to be curious about My Dog Tulip. My first tiny beef is that (like The Illusionist, if I recall) this period piece couldn’t be bothered to get the London taxis half-way right. And I wasn’t at all sure about the accuracy of Ackerley’s Putney flat either. Such things are not small beer, and can mar good work….

Pedantry is worthwhile in this matter. After all, it is far easier to help people thrill to period detail in a cartoon than it is in a “real” movie or even with CGI.

Moving on, I did generally believe and delight in the late 1950s feel of the piece. Often, its fleeting watercolours were lovely in their own right. I believed in Ackerley, and that was before I looked him up on Wikipedia and was reminded (Lord, I hope I did sort of know this in a lurking way) of his period as literary editor at the BBC’s culture magazine The Listener. Crucial to this sense of reality was the easy if slightly frightened condescension toward to the working class but also the assumption that the middle classes were capable of a fabulous and often eccentric sense of superiority. The former WW1 officer turned farmer, and the bullish, pubbish tyro dog breeder fill this brief famously.

Best of all, My Dog Tulip produces one of the best human bitches since Cruella Deville (shown to great advantage in that other fine doggy piece, Disney’s cartoon of 101 Dalmatians). Ackerley’s sister Nancy is impeccably drawn, in every sense. The late Lynn Redgrave gives her a voice which has that carrying capacity and and clarity which is this side of shrill and betrays none of the elocution class which dogged Mrs Thatcher’s.

The portrayal of Ackerley himself is improving as it mellows in my mind. At the time, I was a bit irritated that he didn’t shut his bloody dog up and I was too busy sympathising with his neighbours to quite empathise with the bond between literary gentleman and hound. The alsatian scatology didn’t bother me, though I have recently quite disliked a small puggy thing on account of the way its vulva was sort of prolapsed whilst it was in its first heat.

I was a little saddened by the lack of a narrative arc in the piece: either Ackerley, or the movie-makers, detected no process of socialisation in this mutt, and that – had it been true – would have been very sad. Maybe I am being unsubtle: I should perhaps have been thrilled by Tulip’s becoming a mother and mopped up all sorts of assumptions from it.

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Publication date

15 June 2011


On movies