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A Dog Called Money

  • Film
  • 2 out of 5 stars
Photograph: Seamus Murphy

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Surprisingly sophomoric and one-paced, this music doc is an experiment that doesn't come off.

This slightly pompous music doc is designed to let the audience into Dorset rock god PJ Harvey’s creative process as she records her 2016 album ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’. In reality, it’s a mix of loose studio scenes and footage of her wandering around Kosovo, Kabul and Washington DC, which photojournalist-turned-director Seamus Murphy shapes into heavy-handed visual commentary about geopolitics.

Of course, there’s music too – recorded at Somerset House in a specially constructed studio with one-way glass for onlookers – and it’s typically great. Time Out’s review at the time called the album ‘frequently thrilling’ and Murphy’s camera captures some of that coalescing magic. But between those highs, ‘A Dog Called Money’ is often enervating. If you’ve ever wondered what the boredom threshold is for watching a musician tuning a hurdy-gurdy, you’ll find the answer here.

Murphy’s fly-on-the-wall footage finds Harvey hearing war stories from kids on the block in Washington and witnessing the fallout of an actual war in Kabul. You can feel the lyrics taking shape from her experiences and hear the osmosis of musical influences as she tries out Afghan instruments. Yet it’s all pretty obvious and Harvey remains an elusive presence, bar some oblique voiceovers and studio smalltalk. One or two of the quasi-protest songs that made the finished album drew accusations of cultural insensitivity at the time. A more interesting doc would have tackled that. 

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

Release Details

  • Rated:UC
  • Release date:Friday 8 November 2019
  • Duration:90 mins
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