When I first saw mrhands.mpeg online, I don’t recall my initial thoughts on the Internet’s ultimate porn-snuff-in-miniature epic being along the lines of: “This event calls into question many of my previously held presuppositions on the ethical implications of interspecies relations, the spiritual nature of animals’ being that would be expected to fuel a romantic bond, and ultimately the inability for mankind to ever put a clear definition on morality.” My first thought was something more like: “You unspeakable moron! You had to get that close to a horse dick to realize it would tear your plumbing asunder?! I mean, my God, these days even most Mom n’ Pop sex shops stock obscenely elongated dildos that could’ve addressed your evident one-upmanship!” Zoo, a loosely-defined documentary about an even looser anus, dances with coyotes, gazes at the stars in the sky, and ruminates somnambulistically on the shallow boundaries that humanity puts on its own kind. It does everything to avoid actually dealing with whatever intellectual issues surrounding bestiality might actually necessitate discourse. Insistently evocative and deliberately irrational, Zoo‘s biggest source of frustration is not that it argues in favor of bestiality (since it can barely be bothered with making an argument in the first place). Even if it did, I’m not sure many in its audience would be phased since, from a moral perspective, most of us would agree that what went down in that barn was in all likelihood a victimless crime in the same sense that I don’t really understand the need for laws against suicide. (The horse ended up being gelded as a result of his owners’ indiscretion, but as the animal was obviously not being put out to stud for breeding purposes, que sera sera.) What wears and eventually tears is director Robinson Devor’s liberally applied cinematic mysticism, which (as many have already noted) has the seemingly counterintuitive effect of further alienating Devor’s chosen subject matter. I’m personally all right with knowing precisely no more and no less about the psychology of bestiality than I did from the obscenities of Freddy Got Fingered (which, in its almost Buñuelian dismissal of civilized structures, probably cuts closer to the heart of the matter than Zoo). But the legacy of Chris Marker weeps when the future of essay filmmaking looks like a feature-length commercial for Ambien.
Fans of Zoo probably don't need to feel any more embarrassed for creaming their jeans over looming mountains and sherbet-hued twilight skies than the postcard perverts who lusted tastefully over Brokeback Mountain. They will surely feel like they've stumbled upon a treasure trove of money shots when they feast their eyes on THINKFilm's transfer. Black levels are particularly lush, only occasionally crushing. Otherwise, the video has a sensitive, muted palate befitting its lullaby overtones. The audio gives top billing to Paul Matthew Moore's wall-to-wall music score, which will only help those who like to zone out.
In his commentary track (the disc's sole extra), Devor somewhat justifies his aesthetic choices by noting right off the bat that most of the real-life participants understandably did not wish to appear on camera or be made in any way recognizable. The disembodied voiceover has worked for any number of fantastic documentaries in the past, but I'll allow Devor this one. Still, his voice-as well as that of co-writer Charles Mudede-sounds on the verge of sleepy-time. No amount of explication on the seductive iconography at play (flowers, mountains, et al) can counteract the notion that the film's most overwhelming strategy is hypnosis.
Until someone puts out a disc of Harry Potter in Equus, Zoo will have to suffice for those who want to get their horse rocks off.