At age 11, I first saw Dog Day Afternoon as an edited-for-TV Sunday afternoon movie on a dreary fall day. The lonely kid version of me was absolutely riveted by the guns, the screams, the laughs, the crowds, the helicopters and the impetus of the whole bank robbery fiasco – a sex reassignment surgery.
I loved Al Pacino’s performance as the dopey yet charismatic bank robber Sonny, and I was put on edge by his brooding partner Sal, played by the late, great John Cazale (Pacino’s tragically dopey brother Fredo in The Godfather I & II). But the true story of Pacino’s character is nearly as riveting as Sidney Lumet’s 1975 film.
Allison Berg and Francois Keraudren’s The Dog is the story of John Wojtowicz, who achieved infamy for his robbery of a Brooklyn bank on a scorching August day in 1972. A Vietnam vet and divorced father of two, Wojtowicz embraced his bi-sexuality after the service, and become devoted to the Greenwich Village’s burgeoning gay liberation movement.
There he meets, falls in love and marries a trans woman named Elizabeth Eden, who is soon placed in a psychiatric hospital after several suicide attempts. The center of Eden’s despair is apparently her desire to undergo surgery to become a man, which Wojtowicz is initially against.
Almost a year later, Wojtowicz hatches a plan to rob a bank so Eden can get her surgery, but the heist turns into a 14-hour hostage crisis which leads to a five-year prison sentence.
Wojtowicz (who died in 2006), his mother, ex-wife and dozens of other friends, family and acquaintances fill The Dog, along with great archival footage and photos. For as larger-than-life and entertaining as Wojtowicz is on screen, he’s not as likeable as Pacino’s role may suggest. But it’s his complicated nature and who-gives-a-rat’s attitude that makes for a lot of smiles, grimaces and smiley grimaces throughout this impressive documentary.
The Dog will be shown only once during MSPIFF. See it tonight at St. Anthony Main Theater at 9:30 p.m.
(credit: Cohen Media Group)
Other Highlights: Tuesday, April 15
Le Chef (Daniel Cohen; Spain) Jean Reno plays a top chef who needs to jazz up his restaurant in order to keep his strong Michelin Guide rating. He enlists a scrappy young wannabe chef (Michael Youn) to help him appear to be on top of the latest, pretentious foodie trends. (7:30 p.m.)
Fish & Cat (Mahi va Gorbeh; Iran) Based on a true story and filmed in a single take, Fish & Cat is about a twisted trio of cooks who run out of meat during a solstice festival popular with students. With a dearth of animal protein, the cooks start looking at the human revelers as a tasty alternative. (9:20 p.m.)
OJ: The Musical (Jeff Rosenberg; USA) With his NYC theater career on the wane, an eccentric artist moves to LA on a whim to convince a pair of old friends to stage a very modern take on Othello. (10:00 a.m.)
For the festival schedule, and a complete listing of all the movies being shown, click here. Ticket information is available here.
Throughout the entirety of the 2014 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, we’ll be spotlighting one notable movie each day, along with other notable screenings. To see the WCCO Movie Blog’s complete coverage on the MSPIFF, click here.