A Dog Called Money (2019)
More than a simple behind the scenes look at PJ Harvey’s ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ album... at least that’s the idea. This documentary looks deep into the inspiration behind the music and lyrics. As Polly and director Seamus Murphy travel around the world. I’ll be honest, that’s not of much interest for me. What is though is how The Hope Six Demolition Project was recorded, in a goldfish bowl in Somerset House. The public invited to watch the process through one way glass. I recall reading about this at the time and thinking I’d like to go see and hear that. I couldn’t be bothered going down to london though. Now we have this doc and it probably gives a much broader view than I’d have got with a single hour or however long I’d have stood there for... again that’s the idea. Now not to say that the travels depicted here aren’t important. They give it context and set it apart from pure process and it’s notable that lyrically in particular there’s a lot of influence and there’s some themes that are outright lifted directly from sounds, songs and prayers they hear. The stuff shot on the road does feel superfluous though. I’m a PJ Harvey fan, I’ve seen these songs performed live. Polly is a stunning performer, as are her band. This though feels far too carefully choreographed. Murphy captures some great shots. Of their travels, of Polly, of the studio, all accompanied by Polly’s rather dry narration. It’s awkward and sterile. It’s still interesting, I just wish I’d felt that we’d been let in a little bit more. Surely that was the purpose. So we get a mix of Kosovo, DC, Syria and Somerset House both sides of glass. The songs are good, not Harvey’s best, for that I’d go with Rid of Me, Dry, Let England Shake. But it did make me listen to the album again and stuff like River Anacostia and The Ministry of Defence are superb. It’s enjoyable to watch the band perform and to watch raw takes. As a documentary though it doesn’t really work. It’s just a string of random clips with little to no structure or reason. Worse than that it feels like it’s taking advantage, using the poverty of others for arts sake. Maybe I’m being harsh, but I don’t think so. It takes nothing away from the music and I’m no less a fan having watched this. You could argue where do ideas come from after all, it’s all influence and reimagining, one thing sparks another. Perhaps Polly should keep this sort of thing to herself though. She’s cultured a career by being slightly aloof, I think that works better. As for Murphy, I feel he’s done the best with his hands tied.