Aug 9, 2016


"Ellen Burstyn is  the kind of actress who in England who would have been made a dame long ago: elegant of bearing,  regal of poise, but possessed of the the scrappy spirit of a prize-fighter.  When she first made it in Hollywood in the 1970s she was already in her forties, her   jaunty survivor’s humor  sparkling like a diamond in movies like Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show  (1971), Rob Rafelson’s The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973),   and Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore  (1974), for which she won an Oscar. These days, she is enjoying a terrific second wind, portraying women who seem to have lived several lifetimes for directors who have barely had a chance to live half of one themselves — Darren Aronofsky, James Gray, and now Solondz, whose Weiner Dog is a pitch-black comedy about a female dachshund stoically enduring a series of ever more decrepit owners. Burstyn plays the oldest of these, a blind, crochety biddy who names the dog Cancer — a touch typical of the film’s kitschy deadpan humor, which is somewhere between John Waters and Robert Bresson. Wearing wraparound shades and speaking in Delphic monosyllables, Burstyn provides the film with a beating heart. Haunted, Scroogelike, by  the ghosts of Nanas past—identical young girls with copper tresses who  chide her in Anime-like monotone for missing out on forgiveness and love.  She awakes, her face a mask of tears.  “He's absolutely an individual voice," says the 78-year old actress of Solondz, whose Welcome to the Dollhouse first caught her attention while working  the film festival track in 1995. “As I read the script, I went ‘Oh, this guy is just so weird, so adorably weird.’ There's something very kind about the way he views us silly people. That’s what I have always loved — any filmmaker who has his own voice and is making his or her own kind of movies, because they have something that they want to say.” — from my interview for The Daily Telegraph