Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dean Spanley


(Toa Fraser / 2008)

I encountered this film because my family adores it and I was happy to watch something they enjoy for a change. Although it is a 'legit' film, it bears all the hallmarks of a made-for-TV movie: it is overly dependent upon a bombastic score, the internal logic behind the shots seems to be the conveyance of information only, most scenes lack any deliberate atmosphere, and it leans too heavily on a few accomplished actors to provide gravitas (Peter O'Toole, Sam Neill).

However, there is a facet of the film that is quite mesmerizing. There are a handful of sequences where a man (Neill) lucidly slips into memories of when he was a dog in a previous life. These moments are handled with a strange delicacy that seems out of place for a film like this. There is no signifying moment; no 'effect' or motif that indicates when Mr. Spanley shifts into dog mode (except the regrettable doggie flash backs). Clearly these are the film's centerpieces. If the rest of the film was as intriguing as these spellbinding moments, it would be a decent film.

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