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Performance artist Laurie Anderson offers up something of a living painting with “Heart of a Dog,” her provocative free-form reflection on life and death, humans and animals, the moon and the stars and other big picture ideas.

She rattles them all around in a mix of mediums, using video footage, animated portraits and illustrations, creating a sort of hypnotic dream state that visually, in parts, recalls Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life.” Anderson approaches that film’s heady philosophizing in her voiceover as well, loosely connecting the dots between her subjects in a running dialogue that veers between coherent and rambling, but is always human and heartfelt.

Chief on Anderson’s mind is her dog Lolabelle, a rat terrier that followed in her footsteps and became a performance artist in her own right. (The dog learned to play piano and performed publicly; videos of the, er, experimental performances can be seen on YouTube.)

Anderson waxes about Lolabelle and a trip they took to California together, and those memories trigger stories about the aftermath of 9/11, the National Security Agency, her New York neighborhood and the notion of feeling sad without being sad. Why? Who knows how the brain works, it just does.

It’s an odd, wandering trip, but Anderson’s personal touch makes it work. Her late husband, Lou Reed, shows up on the soundtrack, offering up “Turning Time Around,” from his 2000 album “Ecstasy.” Is “Heart of a Dog” Anderson’s abstract metaphor for dealing with Reed’s death? It’s just something else to chew on in a film that feels sad without being sad.

agraham@detroitnews.com

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‘Heart of a Dog’

GRADE: B+

Not rated

Running time: 75 minutes

Detroit Film Theatre

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