Monday, January 22, 2007

Review: 'A Tasteful Movie about Men Fornicating with Horses'

Bestiality doc premieres at Sundance
The world of "Zoo" makes some go "Ewww."
By Kenneth Turan, Times Staff Writer
January 22, 2007

PARK CITY, Utah — "Zoo" is a documentary about what director Robinson Devor accurately characterizes as "the last taboo, on the boundary of something comprehensible." But remarkably, an elegant, eerily lyrical film has resulted.

"Zoo," premiering before a rapt audience Saturday night at Sundance, manages to be a poetic film about a forbidden subject, a perfect marriage between a cool and contemplative director (the little-seen "Police Beat") and potentially incendiary subject matter: sex between men and animals. Not graphic in the least, this strange and strangely beautiful film combines audio interviews (two of the three men involved did not want to appear on camera) with elegiac visual re-creations intended to conjure up the mood and spirit of situations. The director himself puts it best: "I aestheticized the sleaze right out of it."

[Devor said,] "I thought the marriage of this completely strange mind-set and the beauty of the natural world could be something interesting."

In the end, Devor ended up agreeing with the Roman writer Terence, who said "I consider nothing human alien to me."

"It happens," the filmmaker said, "so it's part of who we are."

They love horses, don't they?
January 22, 2007
Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

PARK CITY, UTAH — It was merely the latest perversity in an opening weekend full of them that possibly the darkest of the Sundance Film Festival's entries – a strangely poetic non-fiction movie about men who have sex with horses – had its packed press screening on a brilliantly sunny afternoon yesterday.

On the contrary, Devor – a three-time Sundance invitee and graduate of Southern Methodist University at Dallas, Texas – treats the subject with a formally sophisticated and almost dreamy beauty.

Using audio interviews with both cult participants (some who appear in filmed re-enactments playing themselves) and actors reading from a script, the movie attempts to get inside both the minds and the desires of these men who feel what they do is simply an expression of their (albeit extreme) love of animals and sincere need to commune with the natural world.

While the movie never asks us to buy that rationale, it does successfully put bestiality in a disquietingly humane and even quasi-spiritual context. And, considering how sparingly the movie both alludes to and depicts the acts involved, that may be Zoo's most perverse aspect.

[Concerning the variety of movies at the festival:]

Yet, if the discrepancy between subject and treatment in Zoo is especially dramatic, it must also be noted that most of these movies tackle subjects like violence, sexual deviance and military atrocity in anything but sensational or exploitative fashion.

To varying degrees, they're describing forms of social sickness with an eye toward understanding and enlightenment. They want to know why it is that people can do the evil they so often do and whether there's any hope that anything might stop it.