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My Life as a Dog (Criterion Collection) (Widescreen)

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It's no mistake that the main character in Mitt Liv Som Hund (1985) is named Ingemar Johansson: the film is set in the same year, 1959, that a Swedish boxer of the same name won the world heavyweight champion title from Floyd Patterson. Like his namesake, the film's fictional boy named Ingemar Johansson (Anton Glanzelius) is also a scrappy fighter, both literally and metaphorically. Ingemar climbs into the ring to learn boxing (only to be resoundingly beaten by a girl and thus experience his first ****** impulses) but his primary struggles are with poverty, neglect and abuse, challenges he faces by using his vivid imagination. Rather than being off-putting, the humorous, almost nostalgic tone of Mitt Luv Som Hund blends surprisingly well with the film's frank, dark story and situations, leaving a disquieting but simultaneously funny impression, a tribute to the skill with which the film is rendered by director Lasse Hallstrom. One of the most acclaimed films of 1985 and a success with underdog-loving American audiences at urban art house venues, Mitt Liv Som Hund won Best Foreign Language Film awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Golden Globes, as well as earning Oscar nominations for the script and Hallstrom. Its success propelled the largely unknown Swedish director to international prominence, after over a decade as a filmmaker of romantic comedies and one concert film, ABBA: The Movie (1977). The comedy-drama fit snugly into Hallstrom's preferred type of material, which typically dealt with social iconoclasts struggling to achieve happiness in spite of their eccentricities which, as fondly depicted by the director, are almost always much less bizarre than those of their "normal" peers. Hallstrom's deft and unsentimental touch continued to serve him well as he capitalized on the success of Mitt Luv Som Hund by directing several similarly-themed Hollywood pictures such as Once Around (1991), What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), and The Cider House Rules (1999). (The latter featured a main character and several cute young orphan boys who could've been Ingemar's American cousins.) The English language translation of Mitt Luv Som Hund, My Life as a Dog, was also the title of a short-lived American television series spin-off of the film in the 1990s. Karl Williams, All Movie Guide