“You lookin’ at me? There’s no one else here....”
BESTIAIRE (Denis Côté). 72 minutes. Opens Friday (December 7). See times. Rating: NNNN
We look at animals. They may or may not look back at us. Often they look past us, barely acknowledging our existence despite the impact we may have on their lives. That's the crux of Denis Côté's extraordinary meditation on the relationship between human and beast, and to some extent camera and subject.
Côté explores the confines of Parc Safari in Quebec, setting up a series of static shots of wildlife in their unnatural habitat while leaving the audience to their own thoughts and associations.
But all the while he's steering the dialogue that's bouncing around in your head. There's an overriding argument, one that becomes explicit when he cuts to a taxidermist stuffing aesthetic life back into dead animals for the enjoyment of voyeuristic humans. Côté's beautiful images have much to say about the ugliness of our attitudes toward our fellow creatures.
Bestiaire isn't for everyone. It demands a patient audience willing to fill in the gaps between Côté's striking compositions and telling montage. Those who are game will be richly rewarded; the rest might have a better time at Marineland.