April 26, 2007

Zoo.

Zoo "Did the Enumclaw zoophiles pervert the nature of their animals any more than some Chihuahua-toting bimbo?" wonders Nathan Lee out loud in the Voice. "I can't believe I'm thinking about this stuff, but weirdly grateful to Zoo for going there. The beautiful and beguiling new film by Robinson Devor meditates on the Enumclaw incident through a hypnotic blend of original reporting, staged reenactment, testimony of involved parties (both zoophiles and local law enforcement), and pervasive, somewhat precious lyricism."

Updated through 4/28.

It's "very easy to hide behind aestheticized imagery, as Zoo soon proves," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Much has been made of the film's look, and it's easy to see why. The cinematographer, Sean Kirby, who also shot Mr Devor's Police Beat, a fiction film about a lovelorn Seattle bicycle cop, has done some striking work here.... Yet, paradoxically, it is precisely because Mr Devor refuses to acknowledge the murkiness that clings to every frame in his film, because he refuses to engage with the world beyond that of the zoophiles, that they seem like creatures from some never-ending night."

"Devor succeeds because he's created a film depicting a lifestyle scandalous and controversial to the mainstream that's completely disinterested in fomenting scandal and controversy," writes Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE. "It's obvious that he's wise to the macabre curiosity that surrounds zoophilia - the way it's furnished hours of late night gross-out enjoyment in freshman dorms nationwide. But Zoo's more The New World than Jackass."

"Personally, I have problems with it." Aaron Hillis's interview with Devor is a refreshing break from the usual "What was it like to work with..." junket pandering. "If you present a sensational story with good intentions and restraint, is that enough to do away with its tabloid appeal?" Also at IFC News, Matt Singer: "I walked away from it feeling like I didn't entirely understand these men and their motives. One of the animal rights workers says that investigating Mr Hands's case let her approach an understanding of these people without actually achieving one. Perhaps that's exactly where Devor wanted to take us as well."

"I'm not sure Zoo is a great film, but it is a morally significant one, precisely because it invites us to suspend judgment (however briefly) and consider that guys who like to get slammed by horses are people too, with complicated life histories and motivations we hadn't thought about," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "For reasons I won't pretend to understand, it might almost be more difficult to raise such issues about a zoophile than about a Nazi death-camp guard or a child molester." He talks with Devor, too.

"Devor, who cites Tarkovsky and Resnais among his influences, eschews the conventional talking-head interview in favor of an allusive, poetic visual style, layering voiceover with Paul Matthew Moore's moody (if occasionally intrusive) piano score and gorgeous 16 mm images of the landscape around Enumclaw," writes Slate's Dana Stevens. "For him, what's most interesting is what the horses represent to the men who (gulp) love them: the wildness and purity of nature itself."

The "heavily filtered, often slow-motion reenactments [suggest] Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line done underwater," writes Mark Asch in the L Magazine.

"There are a select group of documentaries that should be seen on the big screen, and Robinson Devor's Zoo is definitely one of them," writes Anthony Kaufman.

"The artiness - and the ambient drone - of Zoo becomes oppressive, but it's still a ride like no other," snickers David Edelstein in New York. "I guess I couldn't suppress the urge to make dumb jokes. Call me a neigh-sayer."

IndieWIRE interviews writer Charles Mudede, and earlier: "Interview. Charles Mudede. Zoo."

Update, 4/28: Bryan Whitefield talks with Devor for Nerve, where Akiva Gottlieb writes, "This audacious film isn't testing the limits of good taste; it's testing the limits of human compassion."



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Posted by dwhudson at April 26, 2007 1:50 PM