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European-American Topics - Cinema - The Wild Dogs

The Wild Dogs –
an intriguing film about moral, clashing cultures and good intentions

By Judith van Praag
March 2006 

In Thom Fitzgerald’s The Wild Dogs, Bucharest as a character may be flawed —this is not Rick Steve's Romania— but cinematographer Tom Harding’s nostalgic shots of the city's dilapidated grandeur, create a wonderful backdrop, for this intriguing film about moral, clashing cultures and good intentions.

Several story lines, all of which seem to be of equal importance, are woven together into a braid of meandering lifelines. At some point the scenes follow each other in such fast tempo, editor Michael Weir seems to have wanted to create a film version of the Tarantella.

The movie starts out in Bucharest, showing Bogdan (Mihai Calota), who attempts to make a living as a dog-catcher, but is no good at it. Geordie (Thom Fitzgerald himself) is send to Bucharest by his bullying pornographer boss to shoot pictures of under age girls for their web site. On the plane he meets Victor, a Canadian diplomat, who invites
Geordie for dinner at his home.

On their way into town from the airport, Geordie is confronted with the multitude of both beggars and dogs, roaming around. One beggar in particular, misshaped "Sour Grapes" (Visinel Burcea) draws Geordie's attention.

After dinner, Natalie (Alberta Watson), Victor's neglected, weltfremd [quixotic] wife is scorned by their slutty daughter Moll (Rachel Blanchard) for not knowing the name of their servant Varvana (Bogdan's wife, played by Simone Popescu).

At his decadent gentlemen's club, Victor introduces Geordie to a girl who has no problem working in the sex business, but is too orthodox to be a model. In a rather humorous scene another gives her opinion on politics, while baring herself for Geordie's (not the film's) camera. Radu (Marcel Ungureanu Catalin) an entertaining, well-dressed little
man takes Geordie to a discotheque, where he runs into Moll. The trio party together throughout the night, Radu showing his diverse talents: from pole dancing, to singing with gypsy musicians.

The next day Moll explains how the multitude of wild dogs in town is a result of dictator Ceaucescu's politics: "the proletariat cannot have dogs," and that the mayor wants to rebuild the city from scratch and have all the dogs caught and killed.

Director/ writer Fitzgerald draws a parallel between the dogs, their sorry state and homelessness, and the life of man. Intermittent scenes of fighting men and dogs may lay it on a bit thick, the comparison is effective.

Each in their own way, some of the main characters attempt to make a difference, with mixed, if not tragic results. Bogdan rounds up a large number of stray dogs in an old bath house; Natalie, who's not allowed to adopt a Bulgarian baby (either by husband or state) takes pity on the fate of a boy without legs, and Geordie, who sees the light after photographing a small gypsy girl, gives all of the pornographer's money to Radu.

Given the beggars' history, we can only hope they'll be able to enjoy the gifts. As depicted in The Wild Dogs, the fate of underprivileged and dogs in Bucharest remains unsure.

Judith is founder/ director of Stichting ABeL (S'ABeL) in Amsterdam, and owner of Paseo Press in Seattle. She is the arts writer of the International Examiner, and presents
architectural tours at Seattle Central Public Library

© 2006 Content property of Judith van Praag

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