“the monkeys stand for honesty…”

My full review of Zoo went up at DVD Verdict today, and here’s the capsule I used as the basis for that (slightly) longer examination…

Zoo (2007) is an incredibly seductive, incredibly conflicted film. A documentary dealing with a real-life incident where a man was dropped off at a hospital and quickly died from internal complications caused by having sexual relations with a horse, this is clearly a film daring to take on one of the last great taboos: bestiality. But this examination of a community of zoophiles who refer to themselves simply as “zoos” isn’t your typical doc: quite understandably many of the participants had no desire to go on camera, forcing writer/director Robinson Devor to come up with a different approach to the material, and Devor’s tactic is to stage all of the events described in the film and use recorded interviews as narration. Unsurprisingly, the film turns out to be a rather bizarre one—Devor’s aesthetic approach leans heavily towards languid arthouse lyricism and so we end up being an exceedingly beautiful film about an extremely unsettling subject. Not surprisingly, it’s a difficult film to get a firm grasp on. Devor and co-writer Charles Mudede are admirably fair in the way they present the participant’s stories, keeping a rather sympathetic focus on the psychology rather than the sensationalistic aspects of the situation, always refusing to allow anybody involved to be demonized (which is undoubtedly the reason why the film remained relatively under the radar despite its controversial subject matter).

But in the end I really can’t make up my mind about the film—I was seduced by the gorgeous visual sense and laudable humanism displayed in the storytelling, but I admit I couldn’t shake a slight queasiness throughout the film that ultimately rendered it a rather distasteful film experience (which in itself kind of bothers me since I consider myself sympathetic to a wide spectrum of sexual expression, though like one of the interviewees admits at one point I really can’t get my head around this one). But it’s an interesting film, no doubt, whatever side of the coin you ultimately fall on.

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