Curious, compelling and compassionate, Denis Côté's contemplative portrait of animals in captivity is, put simply, a series of beautifully framed and composed tableaux of a variety of animals at Quebec's Parc Safari; but it's also a complex meditation on the relationship between man, beast and environment. Côté lets his often startling imagery speak for itself, giving us, the viewer, plenty time, and food, for thought.
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Critic Reviews for Bestiaire
I am equally fascinated and unnerved by the experience, which is why I will surely return again.
A meditative movie that turns into a call for compassion for all the animals exploited for entertainment in zoos, safari parks, and circuses.
Because most people are used to films that tell stories or make arguments, the natural response is to impose meaning on the images in Bestiaire, a response that reduces their immediateness and reality.
Whether one is an animal lover or not, the chance to in essence sit with these animals as if up close and in their pens is remarkable and engaging.
The images are meant to accumulate shame, and they do. But they also might be too much.
Although there is no narration or manipulative music track, Denis Côté's long-take documentary look at Parc Safari in Hemmingford, Quebec, screams out (quietly) on the side of animal rights.
The film is at turns mundane, poetic, disturbing and comical...invites all kinds of reactions, from our urge to anthromorphize animals to a desire to truly understand them.
Bestiaire isn't for everyone. It demands a patient audience willing to fill in the gaps between Côté's striking compositions and telling montage.
The question the camera seems to ask is: What are animals to us and what are we to them?
Look closely at how Côté approaches those metal bars - you're never quite sure what will pop into view and who the real prisoners are.
Bestiaire accommodates multiple readings, allowing its audience to project theories about spectatorship and captivity onto its silent beasts of burden.
Mr. Côté ... forces you to look at the often unseen. It may not be pretty, but it is essential viewing.
For the most part, it shows exactly what it shows, so that when even the simplest cinematic mediation insinuates itself, it feels a bit like poetry - or conceptual magic.
Bestiaire is, most profoundly, about the dynamics of looking, an exercise in studying gazes that are either unidirectional or, superficially, at least, reciprocated.
Cows stare dumbly ahead; a llama paces back and forth in front of a wire-mesh fence; lions and tigers loudly rattle their cages.
Bestiaire argues persuasively without words, making a case without explicating one at all.
These beasts live a compromised life and Bestiaire raises questions as to whether mankind's best intentions justify the sacrifices they have unwittingly made.
This is a challenging and rewarding piece that reflects your own thoughts as much as those of the filmmaker.
Audience Reviews for Bestiaire
Bestiaire is not a traditional movie in the sense that there is a logical start, middle and ending although the changes in the seasons acts like one in a way. Here we have Parc Safari, a favourite place for me as a child and what we are doing is observing the animals. While they are aware of the camera, they are not obsessed with it like a person might be. So we get to see them "raw" and acting in all sorts of manners to the enclosures that they are put in throughout the year.More
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