Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
With this year's Jewish International Festival underway, SWITCH has checked out the program - click here to read our reviews.x
review, A Dog Called Money, A, Dog, Called, Money, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Pj Harvey, Seamus Murphy, Documentary

A DOG CALLED MONEY

★★★

AN UNEVEN MIX OF MUSIC, IMAGERY AND POETRY

SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Jake Watt
5th June 2019

For the sake of transparency, it should be noted that I had a picture of singer/composer/actor/artist PJ Harvey, torn from an old issue of UK music bible Q Magazine, adorning my hormonal teenage bedroom wall. I’ve also seen her perform live three times. I admit that I am a biased fan.

Between 2011 and 2014, PJ Harvey and Irish photojournalist Seamus Murphy travelled to Kosovo, Washington, D.C. and Afghanistan. They were continuing a collaboration that had begun in 2011, when Murphy made 12 short films to accompany PJ Harvey's album ‘Let England Shake’. Murphy has won World Press Photo awards for his work documenting life in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Gaza, Peru, Lebanon; Harvey is celebrated for her nine acclaimed albums.

Their aim was to combine and harness Murphy’s visuals and Harvey’s musical talents to see what they could create on their journey. The two published a book, 'The Hollow of the Hand', together with Murphy’s photographs and Harvey’s notes in 2015. Then Harvey’s acclaimed and politically charged album based on their travels, ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’, was released in 2016. Now, a new documentary titled ‘A Dog Called Money’, the directorial debut of Murphy, visually captures the artists’ globe-hopping trek as well as the making of ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’.

The documentary follows Harvey and Murphy’s three-part journey (Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan; the rugged landscapes of Kosovo; and the south-east of Washington, D.C.), recounted in footage and poems. Through a mix of reportage and local portraiture, they examine places that experience conflict on a daily basis, wrestling with the realities through their respective creative means - Harvey writing notes, which could become a song for the album or a poem for the book, and Murphy photographing and filming.

'A DOG CALLED MONEY' TRAILER

Murphy and Harvey visit people and places in search of inspiration; every moment represents a potential opportunity to find a good title or compose a powerful rhythm. Here, the singer's wanderings and impressions are often accompanied by her thoughts, which can be heard in voiceover. The film opens with a close-up of a child peering into the window of a car, then cuts to a battered cinema. “I’ve heard, 20 years ago, you paid to get into the cinema with bullets,” Harvey enunciates crisply in her Dorset accent. On several occasions, though, her words simply describe what is happening on screen. “All that’s left from the looting, strewn in dust on the floor,” she observes of debris, strewn in dust on the floor of an abandoned house in Kabul. Suddenly, the scene shifts to Washington.

What connects the locations? Not much, apparently. Murphy has been quoted as saying: “I was in Afghanistan already and it was a place that seemed obvious because I’ve got a long history with it. D.C. made sense because it’s the source of Western power which, in many ways, decides the fate of Kosovo and Afghanistan, and yet it has its own problems.” It's probably no coincidence that Harvey was on tour in Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001, the same day that she won the Mercury prize for her album ‘Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea’ - she phoned in her acceptance speech while looking out of her hotel window, seeing armoured vehicles driving up the street and the Pentagon on fire.

While PJ Harvey's songs certainly have a strong impact, none of the locations are explored in any real depth and the choice of material sometimes fails to tie back into the music.

Murphy's cinematography throughout the documentary is excellent, but his director's gaze constantly changes, flickering over the characters and the places visited by Harvey. While her songs certainly have a strong impact, none of the locations are explored in any real depth, and the choice of material sometimes fails to tie back into the music. The inclusion of footage of Donald Trump supporters towards the end of the documentary not only feels out of place (considering the timeframe of the album’s creation and his election), but it’s odd when you remember that Harvey has eschewed easy anti-U.S. hectoring in the past.

‘A Dog Called Money’ also allows us to watch the recording of the songs she brought back. As part of an art installation, 'Recording in Progress', members of the public were invited to watch behind a one-way mirror in a purpose-built studio at Somerset House, London as Harvey and musicians crafted ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’. This allows the audience to observe the easy-going rapport between the band members (like John Parish and the producer known as Flood), her magnetic performance and her creative process.

This documentary isn’t a profound exploration of PJ Harvey's life outside of the studio; viewers expecting a freer, more sincere portrait of the musician should probably stroll on. Björk once said that Harvey reminded her of Clint Eastwood ("everything is understated”) and as anyone familiar with her music knows, Harvey is revered for what she does not give away and keeping certain doors closed. Apart from her short, inevitably public relationship with Nick Cave (they fell in love while filming the video to their 1996 duet 'Henry Lee'), her private life is unfathomable. In general, someone who does not know the singer or her musical works may find it quite hard to relate to this film or engage with travels that seem only to serve her artistic purposes.

What we are left with is an intriguing snapshot of Harvey’s creative process, but little else. ‘A Dog Called Money’ is less of a portrait of an artist or a travelogue and more of an outline of the relationship between poetry and imagery.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: TBA
RUN TIME: 1h 30m
CAST: Pj Harvey
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Seamus Murphy
PRODUCERS: Isabel Davis
Katie Holly
Seamus Murphy
James Wilson
SCORE: Pj Harvey
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw - Dwayne Johnson & Jason Statham's action-packed spinoff
TRENDINGWIN FAST & FURIOUS: HOBBS & SHAWDwayne Johnson & Jason Statham's action-packed spinoff
Sliders: The Complete Collection - The entire classic sci-fi series in one big box set
TRENDINGWIN SLIDERS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTIONThe entire classic sci-fi series in one big box set
Judy & Punch - A fierce, darkly comic and epic revenge story
TRENDINGWIN JUDY & PUNCHA fierce, darkly comic and epic revenge story
Farming - Caught between two worlds in an mournfully true story
TRENDINGWIN FARMINGCaught between two worlds in an mournfully true story
Charlie's Angels - A new generation of Angels, another barrel of fun
TRENDINGCHARLIE'S ANGELSA new generation of Angels, another barrel of fun
And Then We Danced - A passionate and remarkable classic in the making
TRENDINGAND THEN WE DANCEDA passionate and remarkable classic in the making
Emu Runner - Another great win for Indigenous storytelling
TRENDINGEMU RUNNERAnother great win for Indigenous storytelling
Greener Grass - A deeply odd and very funny suburban nightmare
TRENDINGGREENER GRASSA deeply odd and very funny suburban nightmare
The Irishman - Kissing Scorsese’s ring (again)
TRENDINGTHE IRISHMANKissing Scorsese’s ring (again)
Lion - A raw and powerful journey of identity
TRENDINGLIONA raw and powerful journey of identity
Jewish International Film Festival 2019 - The reviews
TRENDINGJEWISH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2019The reviews
God of the Piano - A tale that tickles the ivories
TRENDINGGOD OF THE PIANOA tale that tickles the ivories
School of Seduction - Husband hunting in Russia
TRENDINGSCHOOL OF SEDUCTIONHusband hunting in Russia
Double Lover - Softcore pornography for cinephiles
TRENDINGDOUBLE LOVERSoftcore pornography for cinephiles
Ford v Ferrari - A racing biopic that's right on track
TRENDINGFORD v FERRARIA racing biopic that's right on track
Never Look Away - An artistic and spiritual epic
TRENDINGNEVER LOOK AWAYAn artistic and spiritual epic
Five Feet Apart - Breathing borrowed air and clichés
TRENDINGFIVE FEET APARTBreathing borrowed air and clichés
Gallipoli - A powerful and important film remembered
TRENDINGGALLIPOLIA powerful and important film remembered
Doctor Sleep - Here’s 'The Shining' Stephen King has been waiting for
TRENDINGDOCTOR SLEEPHere’s 'The Shining' Stephen King has been waiting for
NT Live: Fleabag - The birth of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's masterwork
TRENDINGNT LIVE: FLEABAGThe birth of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's masterwork
© 2011 - 2019 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us