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Critics reviews
Bestiaire
Denis Côté Canada, 2012
Through his choice of shots (animals filmed through bars, fences; partially obscured by walls and dividers) and his concentrating on filming animals in their non-public enclosures (more confining than their display areas), Côté continually draws our attention to the animals as captives. Deliberate or not, he has made a subtly unsettling film, one that is not just about observing, but about how and what we observe—on more than one level.
November 16, 2012
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Much of the movie consists of long, static takes of wild beasts in captivity doing little of interest, which is a clever way of rebuking the anthropomorphism of most animal films. By presenting human subjects in exactly the same manner, Coté turns the tables on us zoogoing gawkers. The approach wears thin after a while, but there’s no denying his pictorial talent.
November 15, 2012
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[Côté] doesn’t seem interested in making an animal-rights movie, even if, willingly or not, that is precisely, what he ended up with. This may not be a fuzzy wuzzy, warm-and-cuddly song to animals, but in revealing the everyday, sometimes repellent surrealism of the park — where zebras, elephants, camels and ostriches walk among slowly moving cars, and lions bang wildly against their small cages — he forces you to look at the often unseen. It may not be pretty, but it is essential viewing.
October 18, 2012
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Bestiaire is enigmatic viewing to be sure, and that’s what makes the documentary so captivating. Côté’s observational style betrays little about his motivations. And when the film fades to black, only to resume inside a taxidermist’s workshop—it’s unclear if this is also inside Parq Safari—the movie asks even more inscrutable questions.
October 17, 2012
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The nearly wordless Bestiaire is, most profoundly, about the dynamics of looking, an exercise in studying gazes that are either unidirectional or, superficially, at least, reciprocated.
October 17, 2012
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The attended pleasures are simple but irresistible: a small deer steadily pacing in circles adopts the tenor of physical comedy; a handful of ponies meandering aimlessly emanate childlike innocence and warmth; and the hard stare of a bull, seeming to return our gaze, is oddly disarming.
October 16, 2012
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Any temptation to anthropomorphize the subjects is counteracted by the abstract, coldly precise visuals. (An uptilting shot of ostriches as they move their heads in and out of frame is like a horror movie jump scare extended into infinity.) Tediousness sets in eventually; there’s only so much zoological abyss-gazing one can do. Even a climactic turn toward playfulness—baby elephants make everything better—can’t dispel the desire to leave this pseudo-wild kingdom far behind.
October 15, 2012
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Compared to the work of Bert Haanstra (“maybe we’re the ‘animals’!”) or Nicolas Philibert (“there is so much there we can never know”), Côté uses his film to place all of us at a respectful distance, and keep us there. By the final third, when we watch a taxidermist ply his trade, one must pause to wonder. We can in fact get closer to dead animals and get to know them much better than we can those who are alive. But these “downed” creatures are only yielding knowledge of what they used to be.
September 11, 2012
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