The Wild Dogs (of Romania)

Thom Fitzgerald visited Romania. Bless his heart and the money he spent to boost my country’s doomed economy in the dark ages of 2002 — a time before iPods (when Discmans ruled); a time of few malls; a time when stray dogs, stray cripples, stray whores and stray Canadian diplomats lived in a loving putrid harmony.

Thom Fitzgerald would be a mediocre film maker even if he were the only film maker alive today. His movie about Romanian misery and the great Western minds that decode it, “The Wild Dogs” (2002), is a piece of shit.

But let’s take it one step at a time. Here’s what this movie says — or fails to say.

A fat Canadian pornographer by the name of Geordie (a role which Fitzgerald finds himself suitable enough to play) is sent on a quest for “teen pussy” to the dark and gloomy land of Romania. On the plane he meets a guy whose testicular cancer almost kills him during the flight. Don’t ask me for medical specifics — balls have a mind of their own. This guy is a Canadian diplomat who sticks his finger inside Romanian women and later stirs his whisky with said finger. Pretty standard stuff.

In other story lines — so well developed I wish I could contribute money to send Mr. Fitzgerald back to film school — a dog catcher starts collecting stray dogs in a deserted building, and a bunch of crippled homeless children parade about the screen in an pathetic effort to jerk tears from sensitive liberal Westerners.

Here are some choice scenes aside from “finger inside random woman” that speak to the subtlety of the movie:
— Canadian pornographer has sex with diplomat’s daughter and blackmails diplomat with the footage. As a favor he asks for a passport and a visa for a disabled, homeless child.
— Canadian mother and daughter visit orphanage to play with the abandoned children.
— Canadian daughter of diplomat explains to Canadian photographer why there are so many stray dogs — Ceausescu and his grandeur, much canine sex. She also calls current Romanian president Traian Basescu an “idiot” for wanting to neuter or euthanize the gangs of dogs (that project was in full swing in 2002 when the movie was filmed; Basescu was mayor at the time)
— Canadian pornographer takes pictures of naked Romanian girl who spreads her legs while talking about the greatness that was communism.
— Canadian pornographer decides not to photograph naked 12-year-old girls. He draws this conclusion after crying in the shower — also known as the “oh my God, I need to help these bastards” moment. After such a suculent moment, he decides to focus on the misery and dirt of the Romanian street, bringing it into his Hilton hotel .
— Canadian pornographer (he steals the spotlight, doesn’t he?) gives passport with Canadian visa and scores of dollars to disabled beggar. That is known in the language of film as the “fuck capitalism” moment.

There is some sort of message “The Wild Dogs” is trying to send — so let me attempt to decode its intellectual intricacies:
— there are many disabled crippled children in Romanian who will do anything for money. This must be true as the kids in the movie were recruited from the street and paid for Fitzgerald act of self-congratulatory movie making.
— there are also many dogs and Romanian treat this dogs with the same contempt and hated they treat their children.
— Romanians are so savage and impotent when it comes to changing the status quo, that even a Canadian pornographer can become a humanitarian God.
— Bucharest is as dangerous as a capital city should be. You can have random sex with freaks, midgets and the woman with the foot-long mustache.
— Canadians are so awesome and their hearts so large that it’s no wonder Romanian bum rush its borders.

All said, this movie is exploitative — of the children it portrays, of the myth of a savage post-communist Romania and ultimately of its audience. What angered me even more than the movie itself were the stories and comments written about it — mostly in Canadian newspapers — but not only:

* Perhaps the greatest revelation of the film is the treatment of gypsies. In one scene Geordie is told he can’t bring a gypsy into the Hilton hotel. That would definitely happen in many hotels, bars and restaurants, reports Fitzgerald. “And not just the gypsies, even the short people. The Hilton put security on them because they were so short.” (Toronto Star)

* Our heroic pornographer finds himself compelled to help the crippled and the abandoned he sees within Bucharest. The ambassador’s wife also helps people; the most powerful sequence in The Wild Dogs is a bit in which Watson goes about her day, shopping and dining out, and all the while being followed by a crippled boy to whom she has shown kindness. It is surreal. (Ottawa Sun)

* The Wild Dogs is arresting storytelling, but gloomy as hell, and hell it is. Warning: an ordinarily melancholic viewer may be pushed into a suicidal funk; only the beautiful setting (decaying, of course) offers respite from the bleakness. (Calgary Herald)

* [Fitzgerald] wrote The Wild Dogs, partly to expiate his own guilt, mainly to capture the crazy soul of one of Europe’s most brutalized and defiant peoples. Fitzgerald plays Canadian film director Geordie, who is sent to Bucharest to herd porn starlets and finds exploitation, cynicism and survival in a Romania left stripped and perverted after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu. […] We have two very telling quotations for context. Geordie’s producer back in Canada has sent him to Romania “because those girls will stick a bratwurst up their ass for a nickel.” Life is cheap and desperate. Bogdan doesn’t get paid because “Sunday is payday, and nobody works on Sunday.” Life is a paradox. And all around Geordie, life is a carnival of ordinary horrors. (Montreal Gazette)

* There’s a lot to be said against Thom Fitzgerald’s The Wild Dogs, a film which, when faced with abject poverty and suffering, doesn’t really know how to resolve its feelings and resorts to bad doom-laden metaphors in order to compensate. But as it flails wildly in the hopes of hitting a target, there’s no denying that it occasionally does, and that when it does it often scores a direct hit. Even if Fitzgerald can’t solve the problems of a crumbling Bucharest, he evokes the state of wanting to extremely well, thus saving his film from the sanctimony that another director might have brought to the subject. (on some Web site)

* Fitzgerald has been surprised by some of the response to The Wild Dogs, in particular the charge that the film misrepresents Romania itself. “I was making a film about street people, I was not trying to capture an entire culture. People often think in a nationalist scope much of the time. I don’t think this film captures all of the good things about Romania. But that’s not my job. That’s why they have tourism videos.” (Montreal Mirror)

Not much left for me to say. I am so grateful for this truck-load of sympathy delivered by a sensitive writer/director/actor like Thom Fitzgerald. WOOF!

7 Responses to “The Wild Dogs (of Romania)”

  1. Oooh, I had no idea this movie existed. You got me intrigued and at the same time managed to make a really strong case against it. I trust you and I guess I won’t even try to look for it (especially since I’m in a missing-home mood).

  2. Oh, please do see it. It’s you duty as a journalist. Hehhehe. Plus, there is nothing like misery to make the case for home. I got the movie courtesy of the greatness that is Netflix.

  3. great review, although i haven’t actually seen the film myself. your anger reminds me of discussions we had about “shattered glass.”
    peter sarsgaard, by the way, has become one of my most favorite actors.

  4. It’s hard not to like Sarsgaard — no matter what he does in a movie. And “Shattered Glass” still pisses me off — everytime I think about it.

  5. do you like city of god?

  6. Oh my god- I was an extra in that film! Was it really that bad?? I have a copy of it here on my desk but I’ve never watched it.
    I’m truly sorry that it was so offensive.
    **tossing it in the rubbish bin**

  7. I thought the movie sucked pretty bad. The one subplot I thought was interesting was the dog-catcher who couldn’t bring himself to euthanize the strays.


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