A Letter to True

on September 08, 2004 by Susan Green
More a quasi-autobiographical meditation than a conventional documentary, "A Letter to True" continues Bruce Weber's scrapbook approach to cinema. The director explored this realm less effectively in the 1995 short "Gentle Giants" and the 2001 feature-length "Chop Suey." The current venture's framework is his hand-written missive to a favorite golden retriever named True, one of five Weber pooches who romp on a Long Island beach and pose with signs reading "Dogs for Peace" around their necks. There's also a single cat for peace in the household, by the way. War is one of several subjects Weber covers in a breathless survey of people, places and issues that intrigue him: a combat photographer who captured disturbing images in embattled Vietnam; the human rights of Haitian immigrants in Florida; and the legacy of Martin Luther King.

Weber's interest in gay iconography and celebrities, particularly those of Hollywood's earlier eras, is reflected in his focus on a hunky young man made up to resemble Elizabeth Taylor. Liz herself appears in scenes from "The Courage of Lassie," a 1946 picture that paired her with a collie playing a veteran of the army's K-9 corps. The late Dirk Bogarde shows up in film clips, interviews and home movies depicting his life with a longtime male companion. It's a tender homage that contrasts sharply with a raucous rural family and their many pets, from roosters to donkeys, seen goofing around in the mud. Yet even these silly sequences manage to connect with the specter of 9/11 that looms over "A Letter to True." The bucolic animal-lovers lost an uncle in the World Trade Center. In voiceover narration, Weber remembers a friend who perished in one of the hijacked planes and expresses his passion for New York City by celebrating its diversity of dogs. Featuring Julie Christie, Marianne Faithfull, Bruce Weber, Dirk Bogarde and Elizabeth Taylor. Directed and written by Bruce Weber. Produced by Nan Bush. A Zeitgeist release. Documentary. Not yet rated. Running time: 77 min

Tags: documentary, Julie Christie, Marianne Faithfull, Bruce Weber, Dirk Bogarde, Elizabeth Taylor, animals

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