Apologies, we’re not going to have time to do a full critic round-up today, but we did get this far:
+ "Zoo": What can you say about a 45-year-old man who died? That he loved Seattle and engineering, his family, and having sex with full-sized Arabian stallions? Robinson Devor‘s documentary "Zoo," which circles the well-documented death of Kenneth Pinyan and looks into his life and lifestyle, attempts to strip sensationalism from a ripe topic by using a poetic, aesthetically striking approach (our review from Sundance is here; an IFC News interview with Devor is here). For Dana Stevens at Slate, it works, and she declares the film "manages to take this tabloid-ready incident and turn it into a lyrical reflection on nature and longing." She also addresses the question â€” which seems incidental to the film, really â€” of whether what Pinyan (referred in the film only by the handle "Mr. Hands") and his colleagues engaged in is indeed cruelty to animals, an issue central to the media uproar that ensued following Pinyan’s death. Nathan Lee at the Village Voice continues on this theme:
Let’s not pretend we domesticate animals for anything other than our pleasure (emotional and ethical), and in doing so inflict all manner of unnatural things on them in the name of their health and happiness. Did the Enumclaw zoophiles pervert the nature of their animals any more than some Chihuahua-toting bimbo?
Lee, also a fan of the film, writes that "The picture’s sympathy is rooted in a belief that all human experience is of interest, no matter how extreme or transgressive."
Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE, finding the film "generally terrific," is impressed by the handling of interviews in which most of the subjects insist on staying off screen: "Devor’s impressionistic take on taboo, and how those who practice desire outside culture’s slim margins of acceptance, is a case of physical necessities breeding aesthetic ingenuity."
At New York, David Edelstein "quite likes" the film, with some allowances: "The artinessâ€”and the ambient droneâ€”of Zoo becomes oppressive, but itâ€™s still a ride like no other." Manohla Dargis at the New York Times is ambivalent, musing that "[i]tâ€™s hard to know what Mr. Devor is after," and that he doesn’t manage to express what seems to be his message: "Reality is in the eye of the beholder, and so too, Mr. Devor would seem to have us believe, are death and deviance." And at Salon, Andrew O’Hehir writes that "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."