Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Zoo (Robinson Devor, 2007)

The problem with making a documentary about such a taboo subject (one of the only taboos we have left in America - bestiality) is that no one wants to talk about it, on camera, at least. So you get a film like Zoo, which is a beautiful, dreamlike documentary on the death of a man who was killed by a perforated colon after having sex with a horse, but a documentary without any real, solid facts. This is because the filmmaker, Robinson Devor, along with his cowriter Charles Mudede, decided to take a strongly nonjudgemental point of view on the acts in question, to the extent that there is no objective narration, nor any concrete facts; while I do applaud Devor's decision to not reveal the victim's name (even though Tom Leykis dispicably did), I would have liked even a little information about when this event took place, etc. Almost all of the narration is done by two friends of the man who died who were also involved heavily in this beastiality group that gathered at a Washington ranch from time to time to do what they do. Brief narration is provided by a horse advocate, along with the cop that investigated the crime (I believe). So while I appreciate the concerted effort toward not condemning the dead man or his peers, there is really no voice in the film saying this is wrong, either. Nor do we get any personal explanation of how these people realized, then accepted to the point of action, that they were zoophiles.

So while the documentary is low on facts and big on rationalizations, the images are incredibly beautiful. Roger Ebert, in his review, compared Devor's work to that of Lynch and Errol Morris, and I agree. With one exception, the participants refused to be taped, which left Devor with the choice to use dreamlike imagery of what the narrators are describing, such as a beautiful night scene with white flowering trees, as well as reenactments, which are at their best tolerable and at their worst, like an episode of America's Most Wanted. All these facts together make for an interesting watch, but a frustrating one. If only there could be a forthright, factual documentary about this subject. But would we really want that?


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