Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Robinson Devor's ZOO: An informal review

The cover of the Montreal Mirror was invigorating for LS's Kathleen, after having seen ZOO at the Fantasia festival.
The following is the lightly edited transcription of an instant message conversation between Kathleen and Amber about the film ZOO which they had recently watched at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal.
Amber: Kathleen?
Kathleen: Hi
Amber: So. Zoo, eh?
Kathleen: I feel a bit let down by zoo. you?
As a representative of the horse community, i mean.
Amber: Feelings...yes. Well, I feel a bit muddled.
There were a lot of pretty sky + tree shots.
Kathleen: There were some Hallmark-esque shots of lilacs and leaping dolphins...
Amber: There were also references to a small mining town and this zoophilia community meeting at a farm after having met via the (evil?) internet.
Kathleen: Hey, we're using the evil internet! Will we end up in Washington State...?
Amber: ...what?
Like in THE FILM!
I thought you meant The President or somethin'
I love my cats, but I don't LOVE my cats, you know.
Kathleen: One thing I found interesting was that when the zoos, as they call themselves, were talking about their love of animals, I wondered whether I might share some of their characteristics.
Amber: Interesting. Like what?

There's a part of me that can identify with a complete withdrawal from human contact (which, actually, none of them were even discussing), and just living with non-human companions and falling in love.
I don't know about penetrative sex, though. But I think I can see my way around a lot of sexual/sensual interactions with non-humans.
Amber: They did talk about how they appreciated the simplicity of an animal existence being free of cultural, verbal interactions.
I think I regard my cats as my furry babies. Which is weird too, I 'spose.
Kathleen: I think I have maternal feelings towards my cats too, which is sort of tricky.
Amber: Consent: big topic!
Kathleen: Indeed. It's obviously a slippery slope, and since I just “came out” on Google IM…
Some of the questions around "simplicity" bothered me, but they bother me in the same way that many questions around consent and non-humans do, not just sexually-based issues.
Actually, one thing that I found an effective counter-point to the media's portrayal of these folks as monstrous was when they showed the vets drugging that poor stallion and castrating him. Talk about issues of sexual consent!!
Amber: Right on. That was fucked up. They picked up the stallion in question and...does this count as a spoiler?
Kathleen: If you mean did it spoil my appetite, then yes.

All I gotta say is "pony". Highlight of the film.
Kathleen: I can imagine being in love with a cat (or an otter, etc...), but not feeling sexual desire towards that individual.
Amber: Yer referring to the animal as an individual, as I suppose they may be in the way that it is a singular being. But usually we refer to humans that way.
Kathleen: Yes, I tend to refer to animals as people.
…Although I have had what could be understood as a sexual experience one of the only times I interacted with a horse... I think a lot of girls have experienced this, am I right? Which also brings up issues of back in the day, forcing women to ride side-saddle, issues of sexual restrictions…
Amber: I think there is a difference between riding a horse, or a swing or a washing machine and getting off on it and then associating that being/object/person with sexuality. But I'm not sure it's a romantic or consensual one.
Kathleen: No, it's interesting, for me it was as if the horse was a vibrator. There was no deep connection. But for some girls, I think the riding and other activities form a part of a super emotionally charged relationship.

I think that people definitely have deep connections to animals (myself included). On the subject of girls/women, there weren't too many in the film- none at all who were "zoo".
Kathleen: Another thing zoo ignored or glossed over was other forms of bestial intercourse, like when someone sticks their dick in an animal. I tend to have a much more negative reaction to this, even though with humans I would never argue that rape is limited to forcing a penis inside something.
Amber: Good point. The whole film estheticized the zoophilia and veered as much as possible away from anything "bestial" though you do see some interspecies lovin' in a very peripheral way.
I think that the filmmakers didn't move beyond their original intention of presenting a group's story in a non-sensationalized way. I feel the film lost momentum and had some awkward moments trying to reconcile that.
Kathleen: Yes, I feel like the director narrowed his focus to the extreme and also used a lyrical rather than a straightforward aesthetic and narration style, which is a controversial choice to make when you're diving into hitherto unexplored and taboo territory.
In terms of multiplicity, there were also some interesting choices made in terms of casting and depictions of real people and events. Some people were played by actors but you could hear their real voices, some played themselves, and some were entirely fictional. A strange layering and distancing from the original events was the result, in my opinion.
Amber: It's funny that some reviews have compared the approach of the filmmakers to that of Errol Morris who is so good a spinning a tight yarn as well as using different editing strategies to reveal the different dimensions and truths of a story. This lacked dimension.
I think the film was beautiful to look at but could have used a more rigorous structure, even though there were not many opportunities for "talking head" interviews, as many of the zoos in question didn't want to be filmed.
Kathleen: The one talking head interview that was present only added to the confusion!
Amber: Holy fuck yeah.
I was like "dead little boy", white background, man on a stool...what?!
Kathleen: I think it was supposed to add gravitas, reminding us of the price one zoo paid... for his passion!
All style and very little substance. The "pony" moment, although hilarious, added nothing.
Amber: It added to my personal glee.

What did Rick say again?
Kathleen: Rick said it was a hilarious slapstick comedy, that the dolphins made him laugh, and about the guy on the stool... I don't remember.
Oh gawd and the music! I would argue that the music really worked against the filmmaker's desire to make a non-judgmental and "objective" piece. The music was all and foreboding and relentless and sinister.
Amber: I think it was supposed to be "Glass-ian".
The music.
Kathleen: Well i kept getting scissorhands flashbacks.
Amber: Lady friend, I gotta go back to work now.


Kathleen, Frisky Freelancer said...

methinks the horse in the last picture is making a rather à propos expression...

Kathleen, Frisky Freelancer said...

When I came out of the bathroom, Rick asked if I thought there was a link between zoos and the fetishisation of unicorns by geeks! He suggested I put it up on the montreal geeks page! mayhoops I will!

Kathleen, Frisky Freelancer said...

Umm... identity theft much? That last comment was by Alex Megelas.