Colloque de chiens is the real title, Dog Symposium is the title on the subtitles. The movie is a story told to each other by dogs through a series of stills, La Jetee-like, with quavery synth music and dry narration. The dogs are shot live-action with natural sound.
Dogs on a vacant lot bark at each other over the credits.
“The woman you call mum isn’t your mother” Monique turned pale on hearing those words from a school friend. Madame Duvivier tells little Monique that Marie, the woman who often comes by, is the real mother. Marie tells Monique that she doesn’t know who her father is. Monique flees Bordeaux. “From now on, sex and domination shall rule Monique’s life.” Monique is a nurse, has illicit affairs with her male patients. Christmas eve 1966 she dances with rich, 65-year-old Hubert, intends to seduce him for his money. Monique becomes a “cold and dry voiced whore” with “an urge for revenge”.
Dogs bark in apartment windows and balconies.
Monique falls for the TV repairman, Henri, who she remembers from her hometown. She starts a new life, opening the Joli Mont cafe, but “in fact she’s buying her own death”. Henri helps her run it. Alice, a friend from home, comes to visit, blackmails Monique to not tell Henri about her sad past, has an affair and falls in love with Henri. When the three are in the park, Monique kills herself and her 3-year-old son Paul-Henri. Dogs.
“Henri’s only option is to marry Alice, his wife’s intimate friend, who dominates him. In a way, Alice was buying her own death.” Alice tells about both women’s pasts on their wedding night. Henri has an urge for revenge. He grabs an empty bottle of wine, which turns into a knife on the images, and kills her. Dogs. Henri cuts up Alice’s body and hides the parts all over town, which switches to live-action for a bit, with no dogs but the sound of children singing.
Back to stills. Henri goes to Marseilles and falls into some shady dealings with gangsters, is jailed for 5 years. Nurses a sick cellmate with whom he has an affair. The police draw a map of the body parts they’ve found, which form a circle, the Joli Mont cafe at the center. “The universal geometric laws gave him away”. Live action street shots, adults singing.
Stills. Mr. Benami tells Henri about sex-change operations in Casablanca, “the perfect disguise”. “Henri Odile has become a charming young lady.” Christmas eve 1974 she’s invited out by a rich, 65-year old man, intends to seduce him for money. Odile becomes a prostitute. Goes back to Montsouris, sees the Joli Mont is for sale, buys and runs it, adopts young Luigi. One evening, 18-year-old Fernand comes to the bar with a bottle of wine / knife / empty glass, kills Odile. Dogs barking. At school, Luigi is pestered by his friends. “Your mother was killed by her lover.” “That’s not true. The woman you call my mother wasn’t my mother.” Credits.
This movie is as old as I am. I watched it three times in one weekend… it is fantastic.
The editor and composer both still work with Ruiz (That Day, Klimt, etc), the cinematographer is now with Olivier Assayas, and the actress (!) who played Henri is now a press agent. Everyone involved still alive and well, including Ruiz, who has a euro-art-meets-quentin-tarantino cast of actors lined up for his next film.