SXSW Film Review: 'The Dog'

Doc explores the true story behind 'Dog Day Afternoon'

Even if you don’t recognize his face, you know his story – some of it at least. The Dog goes deep with John Wojtowicz, a no-name-turned-tabloid-fixation whose real-life run at robbing a bank to pay for his lover’s sex reassignment surgery was immortalized in Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon.

A capital-C character and uniquely American curio, Wojtowicz sat with co-directors Allison Berg and Francois Keraudren for hours of on-camera interviews over the course of a decade. He comes off friendly, zesty, and amusingly vulgar as he recounts his experiences in Vietnam (which turned him, as he puts it, from a Goldwater Republican into a McCarthy peacenik) and as a young gay-rights activist before embarking on the bank heist that became his claim to fame – even as it landed him serious jail time.

Wojtowicz talks at length about his troubled relationship with former wife Elizabeth Eden, whose surgery he ultimately paid for when he sold the movie rights to their story, and other inamorata. (By his count, the "Dog" had four wives and 20+ girlfriends.) Eden’s coda isn’t a happy one, but the filmmakers treat her and all the other players in this crazy tale with dignity and respect. The filmmakers never attempt to whitewash the complicated figure that was Wojtowicz; indeed, it’s their willingness to consider all angles – was he a soulful romantic or an unhinged obsessive? a folk hero or a crass opportunist? – that makes this doc so enthralling.

Drafthouse Films and Cinedigm will release The Dog theatrically and on VOD this summer.

The Dog

Festival Favorites
Friday, March 7, 7pm, Alamo Slaughter
Tuesday, March 11, 11:15am, Alamo Ritz
Thursday, March 13, 9:30pm, Alamo Village

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South by Southwest, SXSW, SXSW 2014, SXSW Film 2014, documentary, review, Drafthouse Films, The Dog, Allison Berg, Frank Keraudren

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