Wednesday, June 30, 2010

White Dog (Samuel Fuller, 1982)

White Dog marks my third Fuller film because of my impulsive desire to see why there seems to be such a divide between the generally negative reaction to it I’ve observed among acquaintances and the overwhelmingly positive appraisals of it by several critics I greatly respect. It is noted in a DVD supplement that Paramount higher-ups objected to Fuller’s nakedly intense style: energetic tracking shots, crosscutting between extreme close-ups, and several low angles (not to mention how Fuller incorporates contemporary slow motion into his typically explosive style). I can only imagine, had the film been properly released, how much of a stir his technique would have caused in a period in Hollywood cinema I generally regard as tepid and conservative, descriptives that can also be applied to the country's political climate (Fuller himself remarked that Reagan and the Republicans had American morality by the balls, and the film’s censorship is one of the most egregious examples of pressure group intervention).

White Dog to some seems like a no-brainer anti-racist film, a view no doubt enforced by Fuller’s blunt dialogue and metaphors, but I found it absolutely brutal. Comparing Fuller’s treatments of racism in both this film and The Steel Helmet, the latter attacks it on both a national and distantly personal level while the former concentrates its critique into something more primal and readily identifiable. The corruption of what we never fail to understand is an innocent and pitiable creature, or, more abstractly, nature as a whole, is possibly the most incisive dramatization of the ills of forcefully embedded racism because it so aptly and simply cuts through any apologetic nonsense about racism being a natural phenomenon. Whatever the common criticisms are against the film’s datedness, overacting or exploitation stylistics, Fuller’s uncanny skill at splicing together a streamlined performance for the titular German Shepherd so that we comprehend in its visage a reflection of humanity’s vices undeniably compensates for, and greatly transcends, these petty grievances.

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