media reviews
Culture: Reviews
Celebrating Photobooth Dogs
Photobooth Dogs

Photobooth Dogs is a one-of-a-kind collection celebrating the age-old bond between dogs and their people. Featuring happy and beloved pets in more than 100 portraits taken in photobooths over the last 80 years, these images are a testament to the devotion people have felt—and will always feel—for their dogs. Photobooth Dogs is published by Chronicle Books with an October 1, 2010 release date.

These vintage rarities are collected by Cameron Woo, co-founder and creative director of The Bark, the magazine of dog culture and purveyor of exquisite canine art. The majority of the photographs that appear in Photobooth Dogs are part of Woo’s personal collection. This sub-genre of vernacular photography was amassed from hours of culling through thousands of photobooth pictures, at flea markets, antique stores and online vendors. An invitation to Bark readers and collectors drew a handful of gems, including a three-frame strip showing photobooth inventor Anatol Josepho cradling his terrier (c. 1928) from the International Centre of Photography.

The photographs offer deeply personal self-portraits, a collaboration between machine and the sitter (human or canine)—and the unseen element of chance. The first Photomaton machines appeared in 1925, and for the first time in history, mechanical photobooths offered the masses an inexpensive and high-quality method for portraiture. Crowds lined up to pay their 25 cents and have their picture taken. As photobooth pictures soon became the favored tribute to love and friendship, it’s no wonder that beloved dogs began to show up in the earliest strips.

To purchase a copy of Photobooth Dogs or for retail queries, go to: ChronicleBooks.com
For all media queries please contact Cameron Woo.

Culture: Reviews
Victoria Stilwell Takes Charge
The canine supernanny

She likes to drive black convertible sports cars decked out in a black outfit and wearing driving gloves. She talks to the camera in a stern tone while shifting gears. And even though she was probably the best thing about The Great American Dog Show (which I stopped watching halfway through the season because I couldn’t figure out how being unafraid of an elephant would be an indicator of a dog’s greatness), I thought less of her for participating. So why would I want to watch Victoria Stilwell train dogs?

Well, it turns out, because she’s very good at it. It’s Me or the Dog was a successful half-hour show in the UK before it came over here to Animal Planet and was extended to an hour. I’ve watched both, and the longer format serves the show and Stilwell much better than the shorter version. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that her methods are not nearly as harsh as she likes to appear and, indeed, Stilwell knows her stuff. From “bite inhibition” to “desensitization” to “stress signals,” she clearly understands a dog’s mind and is determined to stick to positive methods no matter the issue.

These kinds of shows tend to be deceptive because they must be manipulated to entertain, and training is not usually entertaining (it is to me, but I’m weird)—things are speeded up with strategic editing, which ends up making training a dog seem like an easy task. But this show, which focuses on a household’s problems with its dog(s), works hard to stress the effort involved, and often illustrates how long it can take to teach a dog to respond.

For example, in one episode, a Toy Poodle with an attitude was terrorizing the man of the house. When he tried to get in bed with his wife, the dog—who was on the bed—would growl at him. Stilwell recommends that the dog be promptly put on the floor every time she growls. The husband walked into the bedroom over a dozen times (they actually counted it down) and each time he approached the bed and the dog growled, the wife (who was holding the pooch) set her on the floor. Finally the dog got the message and, voila, she stopped. Stilwell’s advice worked, and what a great feeling of accomplishment you shared with that family when it did. Stilwell also convinces a naïve single mom who bought a Mastiff mix for protection to neuter the dog when the mom admits she’d like to breed him because “he’s pretty and he’d make a good daddy.” I don’t know how Stilwell keeps from screaming at these owners sometimes … oh, yeah, sometimes she screams at the owners. Not sure what’s with the car and gloves, but, hey, they look good.

Culture: Reviews
Belmondo’s New Film
Legendary Jean-Paul Belmondo bonds with his canine co-star

It’s a wintry late afternoon in Paris and the l’homme de la fourerer (the dog catcher), is screaming. “Everybody wants a dog for the holiday! Or for their children’s pleasure. Merde! [Shit] They are not toys! Merde! They are not toys! Nobody pays attention to anything. In what shitworld do we live? And after, what? It’s us who have to get the dog. She is beautiful, non, humanity? Me, I don’t believe anymore in humans. It’s finished!”

And there you have it: Un Homme et Son Chien, a dark film about loss, disillusionment, age and loneliness and one bright light in an old man’s heart: his love for his dog. In what’s said to be Jean-Paul Belmondo’s final film, the French movie icon best known for his rakish gangster roles and jaunty seduction of the world’s great beauties plays a man with the emotional and physical frailties of his own real age. A few years ago, Belmondo, now 75, suffered a massive stroke, as does his character Charles, and ironically also lost his dog in Paris.“It’s me without any special effects,” he said in the interview he granted to his old friend, TV host Michel Drucker. In real life, the veteran of more than 80 films made a dramatic recovery, found his dog and took a dazzlingly young Italian mistress. In Un Homme et Son Chien, we find an alternate reality.

“Charles,”Belmondo said,“could be any man.”

Widowed and fragile, Charles and Mon Chien (“my dog”) live in his ex-mistress’s magnificent Parisian apartment, until the arrangement feels “inconvenient” to the woman and she throws him out. That day, he is felled by a stroke and hospitalized. Mon Chien is cared for by the ex-mistress’s kind servant (the stunning Hafsia Herzi). When Charles returns to claim his dog, he learns that a handyman let Mon Chien loose on the streets of Paris. In one especially poignant scene, a bereft Charles cries out “Mon Chien!” in the gilded ballroom of the Hotel Intercontinental in Paris. The anguished old man, still immaculately dressed, is told to leave.

Miraculously, Mon Chien is found in the city pound on that winter day. But Charles’s health is failing and his resources are diminished. Racing against his own mortality, he is determined to find a loving home for Mon Chien. The young servant is the most obvious choice, but when she turns up pregnant, Charles knows there is no place for Mon Chien with her. The two begin their journey through Paris and its stratified society. An elegant high heel clicks a door shut in Charles’s face. An old friend glibly chats about Mon Chien but fails to acknowledge Charles’s straits and leaves without looking back. A middle-aged woman rails against Mon Chien, blaming her own dog for her husband’s infidelity.A homeless man at a Restaurant du Coeur, a soup kitchen, tells Charles, “The state took everything from me, everything, even my dog.”

Just as we think it can’t get bleaker, there is a sliver of hope. Mon Chien runs to a young black family sitting at a café, and they seem enchanted by the little dog. Charles is convinced that Mon Chien has found a good home. As the movie nears its close, we see Charles standing on the railroad tracks in Paris; for him, suicide is more noble than dying on the street. Through a tunnel a train hurtles toward him, when suddenly, Mon Chien reappears, barking furiously.

Though Un Homme et Son Chien is said to be a remake of Vittorio De Sica’s 1952 neorealistic Umberto D, the current film—directed by Francis Huster, who also makes a cameo appearance—speaks more to the human condition than it does to post-war isolation. The sober movie outraged much of the French press, which does not like to see its sexy icons age onscreen. “What’s Left of Belmondo?” the weekly magazine Le Point asked. “One can only be staggered by this portrayal of decrepitude and this disillusioned universe where the only point of interest is …a dog.”

As the film comes to a close, the audience in the little movie house in Saint Remy-de-Provence—a chic French village filled with hôtels particuliers, many converted into museums or art galleries— is silent as the credits run, but as they leave, they are abuzz with questions: What happened? What does it mean? Is the ending happy or sad? What happens next?

To me, the conclusion is evident. Charles chooses fidelity over loss, love over disillusionment. In the end, Charles and Mon Chien are together, and that is all we need to know.

Culture: Reviews
Pixar’s Up
The new animated film is brimming with dogs

When cranky old Carl Fredricksen a widower and former balloon salesman, lifts his house with a thousand helium-filled balloons and soars off on a long-anticipated quest, the last thing on his mind is a kid or a dog. So, that’s exactly what directors Pete Docter and  Bob Peterson give him in Up, Pixar Animation Studio’s latest feature film. 

“When Carl goes on his adventure, we give him a new family,” Peterson says. “A grandchild, essentially, and a dog. Because everyone has to have a dog.”

Carl and his stowaway, eight-year-old Russell, meet the Golden Retriever/Lab mix in a South American jungle. When the dog, tongue hanging out, tail wagging, jumps up on Carl, we hear, “Hi there. My name is Dug. My master made me this collar so that I may talk.” Dug suddenly whips his head to the left, says “Squirrel!” and freezes for a beat before turning back to Carl, who is not amused.

Three other dogs star alongside Dug in Up: Alpha, a Doberman, who leads the pack of hunting dogs; Beta, a Rottweiler; and Gamma, an English Bulldog. They are all caricatures, of course, but they act more like canines than cartoons.

“Dogs are so smart and emotional,” Peterson says. “They really do talk to you, but you still want to know what they’re thinking. It was our fantasy to put their thoughts on the screen and keep their natural dog behavior.”

Since having dogs lip-synching to human dialogue is hardly natural, the thought-translating collar gave Pixar the best of both worlds. “We could have a dog yelling while scratching his ear,” Peterson says. “And that dichotomy is funny.”

To help the artists and animators dig into dog and pack behavior, Pixar brought in behaviorist Ian Dunbar. “He gave us great knowledge about how dogs communicate and give signals,” Peterson says.

But the squirrel gag comes from Peterson’s own dogs; that is, from a game he plays with his German Shepherd and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. “They’re sitting around, relaxed and panting,” he says. “I sit next to them and pant with them. And then I suddenly stop and look in another direction and they do, too. When I relax, they relax with me. Then we do it again. Dogs have great senses of humor.”

So, did Peterson’s Dug wag a smile out of cranky Carl? No spoilers, but we will say we wish a tail-wagging dog could adopt every grumpy old guy.