Cool off with some cinematic canines

Published 11:46 am Tuesday, August 1, 2023

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This week at Tryon Theatre we have another installment of the Tryon Film Society films! For those unfamiliar with this practice at our theatre, we take the first week of each month to show two repertory films, united by a theme, for three showtimes a piece. This August, we are celebrating the “Dog Days of Summer” with two dog-centric films, “Lassie Come Home” (Wilcox 1943) and “Best in Show” (Guest 2000). 

These two films provide for a comedic juxtaposition of themes, with one depicting arguably the ideal bond of owner and pet, and the latter depicting arguably the worst of dog ownership. Any criticism therein is only levied against the humans, of course. The canines are spared such critique, depicted only with love and understanding. 

“Lassie Come Home” is an adaptation of the acclaimed and identically titled 1940 novel by Eric Knight. When the character of Lassie was introduced in literature she was received with open arms and loudly lauded. Audiences were enraptured with the purity and universal relatability of this bond between child and dog, a relationship founded only on love and trust, unmuddied by life’s realities and complications. In adapting Lassie’s story to film, the screenplay diverged little from the novel. To have changed much at all would have been to alter an emotional masterpiece. Lassie is perhaps THE foremost animal of film, her name an inseparable part of the western cultural consciousness. If you have seen it already, you know its powerful emotive effect. And if you haven’t yet, you will soon understand the love people have for Lassie. 

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“Best in Show” is a brilliant and cutting satire, skewering the sensibilities and insular world of competitive dog shows, predominantly the dog owners competing in said shows. The film is shot in what is known as “mockumentary” style, where the shot structure and narrative conceit is that of a documentary, depicting reality. However, every member of the dog show world depicted is in fact an actor, indulging in expertly inhabited absurdity. “Best in Show” is a spiritual sequel to the acclaimed “This is Spinal Tap” (1984), hailing from the same creative minds, and providing a similarly brilliant takedown of a hilariously self-glorified culture. “Best in Show” will keep you laughing from start to finish, with each competitor upping the ante on the last in escalating madness and unhinged passion. 

“Lassie Come Home” will show Thursday and Friday evenings, with a Sunday matinee, and you can catch “Best in Show” on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, with a Thursday matinee.

Hopefully, you will beat the devastating heat of these dog days by coming inside the cool confines of Tryon Theatre and indulging in some creature comforts (pun intended)!