Rated NR

A documentary about a group of middle-age men who have sex with horses hardly seems like the kind of thing that would make for a pleasant evening’s viewing, but Zoo mostly succeeds in making this unpalatable tale engrossing. In investigating the story of a defense contractor who died during intercourse with a stallion, director Robinson Devor uses actors to silently re-create the scenes while allowing the actual participants to narrate. It’s a tremendously intelligent technique, combining just enough dramatization to make the film compelling, with enough actual documentary material to make it a legitimate report on the strange events. Over the course of the film, Devor builds a lot of sympathy for his subjects, going perhaps too far in humanizing these men and their weirdly repulsive sexual behavior. But that seems the point, as though Devor took Publius Terentius’ maxim that nothing human is alien, and then extended it to the times when humans do things with nonhumans that they’re only supposed to do with other humans. Plus, Zoo is shot with a dreamy eye and muted, sunset colors that put a shiny coating of pretty on top of the unsettling pile of creepy. It’s definitely a weird and worthwhile experience, if occasionally a little too obviously arty for its own good.

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