Be Your Dog by Mike Hoolboom

Dave Bonta and I were recently discussing via email the films of Mike Hoolboom. Mike is one of my most-admired film-makers and very highly regarded world-wide in the experimental film arena, where my own roots as a film-maker lie. I first discovered his work at an experimental film festival in Madrid in 1994 and it hit me like a revelation. So I’ve been keen to share his work here at Moving Poems, and have shared two of his films before.

Dave found this one, Be Your Dog, before I did. As is often the case with Mike’s work, there is a wrenching sense of sadness here, with dark observations about humanity and an allegorical approach that is both fantastical and deadpan, as well as absurd and tragicomic. I find the latter qualities especially in the way the main visual subject in this film is the film-maker himself, seen far in the distance, almost a speck, and steadily walking away from us without appearing to move at all.

Dave and I were both enthusiastic about the idiosyncratic way Mike makes this film almost completely from a single shot, but Dave wondered if it could be a could be called a poetry film. Indeed, every time I share one of Mike’s films with the readership of Moving Poems, I have the same hesitation.

And yet, Mike’s spoken narrations are highly poetic, and Dave and I both share an interest in stretching the boundaries of what might fit a definition of poetry film. I do get frustrated with the idea that a film in this genre needs to be faithful and subordinate to a poem that is basically traditional in form. From my point of view, we’ve had more than a hundred years of avant-garde art exploding these kinds of restrictions and so why keep poetry film inside such an old-fashioned box.

In any case, genres are ultimately just concepts, grids to place over the top of creative works in order to make them categorisable to our top-heavy minds and their craving for order, shoulds and should-nots.

As always, when writing in a personal way like this, I get to a point where I start to doubt all I have said. After all, everything I have written here indicates my own top-heavy mind, my own craving for order, along with an artist’s contrary need to rebel against a sense of limitations. In addition, I’m probably just banging on about stuff I’ve said here before.

Up until now, I have not written in this personal kind of way at Moving Poems, but Dave also reminded me recently that this site is essentially a blog where personal approaches to writing are more than permissible.

To end, here is Mike’s brief description of Be Your Dog:

A palm tree-gilded road in rural Cuba is the setting for a meditation on a dog’s life. Traffic flows accommodate the uneasy terrain, the fellow travellers, as if we were all in this together. After Iggy Pop, the balm of Adorno.

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