VOD film review: A Dog Called Money
James R | On 10, Nov 2019
Music documentaries are a tricky one to get right. Once a subject has been chosen, go until too much detail and newcomers can be daunted, but don’t go until enough and fans (to some extent the target audience) will be left uninterested. A Dog Called Money, which follows PJ Harvey as she records The Hope Six Demolition Project, manages the unlikely feat of potentially alienating both audiences by staying detached and superficial at every opportunity.
The film is directed by award-winning war photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy. He joins Harvey on travels across Afghanistan, Kosovo and the USA, where the pair encounter poverty-stricken neighbourhoods, migrants and bombed out houses. Murphy documents them on camera with an intimacy and respect, but all the while, Harvey hangs back, scribbling down lyrics and other ideas. The result is a surprising level of disconnect given the pair have collaborated before – Murphy directed 12 short films for her 2011 album Let England Shake.
On the one hand, we get no real sense of Harvey’s inspiration or her creative process – like members of the public invited to observe her ninth studio album being recorded behind one-way glass, we’re witnesses rather than confidantes. On the other hand, there’s not enough chance to get to know the people we see outside in the real world as rounded humans, as the movie repeatedly (often uncomfortably) cuts back to Harvey in the expensive, custom-made studio.
The result is a frustrating, occasionally tedious watch, one that doesn’t necessarily make you doubt Harvey’s own musical abilities, or Murphy’s knack for capturing life with raw honesty on screen, but doesn’t give you any reason to care about her latest album either. A curious misfire that feels too pretentious for general music audiences and too lacking in insight for fans.