White Dog

From the Chicago Reader (December 4, 1991). — J.R.



Previously released only in Europe, expatriate Samuel Fuller’s powerful and corrosive masterpiece about American racism — his last work shot in this country — focuses on the efforts of a black animal trainer (Paul Winfield) to deprogram a dog that has been trained to attack blacks. Very loosely adapted by Fuller and Curtis Hanson from a memoir by Romain Gary and set in southern California on the fringes of the film industry, this heartbreakingly pessimistic yet tender story largely concentrates on tragic human fallibility from the vantage point of an animal; in this respect it is like Robert Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar, and Fuller’s brilliantly eclectic direction gives it a nearly comparable intensity. Through a series of grotesque misunderstandings, this unambiguously antiracist movie was yanked from U.S. distribution nine years ago partly because of charges of racism made by individuals and organizations who had never seen it. But it is one of the key American films of the 80s. With Kristy McNichol, Burl Ives, Jameson Parker, and, in cameo roles, Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, Christa Lang, and Fuller himself (1982). (Music Box, Friday and Saturday, December 6 and 7, midnight)


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