Sunday, November 24, 2019

Movie Review: Baxter (white bull terrier, a terror!)

Baxter (French with subtitles), 1989, 82 minutes, rated PG but certainly no children’s film

Ah, Baxter, that dark white dog film. I had vacillated, wanting to and not wanting to watch this film for a couple of years, but it is hard to find and the film professor at my college kept forgetting to look for her copy to lend to me. So, imagine my backhanded delight when it appeared on the schedule for our college fall film festival – this year, French films (a second language of mine). Should I see it or not, being such a dog lover that I am.

A Dark Plot

I knew it was a dark, possibly chilling film from a while back and knew the story of a dog talking about living with a weak elderly woman he doesn’t like so he attempts to kill her but fails (her health does fail though and she eventually passes away), to then go to live with the cute couple across the street only to fail at killing their toddler, so he is finally given to a dark Hitler-loving boy who commands and controls him. Finally Baxter has found a master he can look up to! (But where are the parents in the film? There, but not there?)

Enjoying a Film When You Already Know the Plot

One can know what a film is about and still enjoy it to death if the film is not only all about plot but also about character development, panoramic scenery, surprise hidden snippets, or actors one favors (I see everything starring Julia Roberts). Consider Apollo 13 or Titanic or Bonnie and Clyde.

I am not sure I enjoyed Baxter but I want to view it again to catch what I missed.

Night Qualms, Canine Qualms

I still had qualms about seeing a horror film - on a Friday night – it was so easy to stay home, but I forced myself to get up, go out, and go back to the college for the final film of the festival. I found Baxter to be a cutie-pie, which may have interfered with my being horrified during the viewing, like most of the audience was. (It can be difficult to believe that someone so good-looking can be so evil. [Consider Madame Nhu or Imelda Marcos or the Shah of Iran.]) I tend to want my villains to be rather average-looking or even less attractive than average.

Cute Doggie!

Baxter is a white bull terrier, a bullet-snouted breed you may never have seen. If you have, it was probably in a televised dog show. Bull terriers are terribly cute to some (like me!), but still, they are terriers with a mind of their own and not the best family dog for the average family – certainly not like a golden retriever or lab is.

I love bull terriers! So it was a bit hard to be as apprehensive and horrified as most of the audience watching this horror film. Besides, I know how movies can be made to appear bloody and horrific when actually nobody is really hurt in real life. And no dogs are killed – they only appear to be.

What’s it All About, What’s it Mean?

A sociopathic boy, a possibly-sociopathic dog who cannot stop being a dog. There is so much to observe in the short little film. We do not identify with the cute little Fascist boy but, instead, with Baxter. Plenty of food for after-viewing conversation.

I found it to be sunny with dark overtones rather than a movie that would keep me up all night afterwards. Your mileage may vary, your experience may differ.

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