A Dog Called Money
Director: Seamus Murphy
Release: 22 November
Part travelogue, part studio-album documentary, A Dog Called Money is a hybrid piece of cinema. The award-winning Irish photographer Seamus Murphy travels widely for his work, recording his experiences wherever he goes. The British musician PJ Harvey is a close friend, and she joins him on one such trip, travelling between Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington D.C. Her experience leads to an album, The Hope Six Demolition Project, with lyrics and conceptual motifs drawn directly from moments the two shared. Harvey, as artistically adventurous as she is musically ambitious, wants to do something new, so she arranges for her album to be recorded in an installation at the Somerset House in London. The public watch through one-way mirrors as Harvey and her band-members get to work, and Murphy documents the process from inside.
The film is an intuitive exchange between memory and art. We oscillate between the studio and the pair travelling, with Harvey acting as the bridge, her songs weaving between shots of the events that inspired her and the music’s live recording. Sometimes she reads aloud notes she made while travelling, spoken phrases that are closer to poetry than diary entries. Harvey is an excellent protagonist for such a unique project. Her slight frame, expressive face and raw musical talent provide a stable current throughout, steering the narrative through diverse situations with ease.
And yet, many of the film’s most powerful moments come without Harvey present, drawn together by Murphy’s forensic eye for local colour. In one scene a swaying circle of 30-40 Afghani men breathe in controlled rhythm, the hoarseness of their exhalations and inhalations forming a strange but compelling chorus. Is it a religious ceremony? A musical performance? The facts are left tantalisingly mysterious.
An enjoyable lyrical voyage, and required viewing for fans of Harvey.
Words: Tom Lordan