Vital Signs

La Condition Humaine

Zoo
Produced and Directed by Frederick Wiseman
Released by Zipporah Films

Much Ado About Nothing
Produced by Kenneth Branagh, David Parfitt, and Stephen Evans
Direction and Screenplay by Kenneth Branagh
Released by The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Frederick Wiseman's rigorous documentary style disdains the unctuous narrator's voice-over explanations to the audience of what it ought to be able to see with its own eyes, and this technique has never been more eloquent and effective than in Zoo, the maestro's 25th work, which was shown on PBS in June and is available for rental from Zipporah Films of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Zoo is a brooding, poignant, poetic consideration of nothing less than the human condition. The animals are gorgeous of course, odd and easy to like. The zookeepers of the Metro Zoo in Miami are attentive, caring, devoted to their charges, and altogether admirable. But their business with the beasts is grotesque, sometimes brutal, and a great strain on both sides. If the keepers and veterinarians were sadists and fools, there could have been an easy protest film, I suppose. What makes this complicated and rich and, ultimately, much more depressing, is that we see decent people, with the best possible motives, clubbing a bunny to death in order to feed a boa constrictor or castrating a wolf...

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