MY RECTUM FOR A HORSE I suspect there will be a lot of walkouts from Robinson Devor's documentary about the 2005 Enumclaw horse incident, in which an airplane engineer referred to as Mr. Hands sustained fatal injuries while bottoming for a horse. But it won't be the easily offended who run from their seats.
The revenue that small theaters are surely losing to senior discounts on Away From Her's ticket sales will easily be recouped from ill-informed frat boy field trips to what they think will be Internet Horse-Schtupping: The Movie. Barebacking jokes during the trailers will give way to a disappointed silence during a mesmerizing opening shot of what looks like a pixie flying in a field of blackness, slowly expanding and revealing itself to be the light at the end of a tunnel.
Zoo, intriguingly, never really crawls out of that tunnel. The movie, which is about the horse-loving men in Mr. Hands' community as much as it's about his death, presents an impressionistic collage of nature images, reenactments, voice-overs, and media samplings. (Turns out Rush Limbaugh and I see eye to eye on some things.) It's also a collage of emotional cues: some scenes allow the music to suggest sinister qualities in the men's activities, but there are also images that look like mood lighting was added to Harry Potter's photo shoot for Equus, hinting at a level of intimacy that boring old queer and straight folks couldn't possibly understand.
Devor isn't just allowing for more than one response to the facts — he appears to be courting them all, creating a sort of controlled chaos that, of course, frees him from the restraints of his own opinion. The result is a coolly aestheticized yin to the snickering yang of the online frenzy in 2005.
This may come off as a cop-out to partisans on either side of the debate, inasmuch as it exists, about zoophilia and bestiality (after all, Edward Albee's 2002 play The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? lost no artistic integrity in more directly addressing the implications of interspecies hanky-panky). Devor shouldn't be criticized for undertaking a detached aesthetic exercise, it seems to me, yet to follow this tack with such a flammable subject can't help but be a comment in some way. But in what way?
Zoo could reasonably be accused of either acquitting the Enumclaw zoophiles by their mere association with the film's artsy ambivalence or, a more insidious possibility, fostering a hyperawareness of what is downplayed, implying disgust via a kind of negative-space sensationalism. Whatever the stunt, the film isn't stunted. While some of the reenactments feel a bit too literal for the tenor of the rest of the film and the actors often seem poorly directed, there is an undeniable harmony to the whole. Zoo emits a quiet, narcotic hum that the gross-out contingent in the audience won't likely stick around to tap into.
Opens Fri/25 in Bay Area theaters
See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com