EO by Jerzy Skolimowski [6/10]

A surreal road trip movie from the eyes of a donkey, “EO” treats the viewer to a number of richly evocative scenes but falls short of creating a compelling narrative. The donkey, EO, appears to us first in a circus, bathed in the love of a young woman, a narrative anchor that recurs a few times in the form of memories but then peters out. As EO is passed from one semi-bestial human (braying soccer hooligans, animal traders, horse/donkey-meat transporters) to another, brief moments of joy pop up in the form of children and a returning prodigal son, before an ending that clunks down like a guillotine. Mesmerizing scenes (EO walking across the front of a dam cascading deafening water, his hooves clip-clopping in courtyards) command attention, amidst baffling avant-garde moments (robot creatures, Isabelle Huppert in a humans-only piece) that sap any emerging plot. If the intention is to portray animals in servitude to evil humans, the donkey’s doleful eye does evoke some sympathy, but (to this viewer at least) that sympathy never progresses to revelatory empathy. The cinematography is amazingly adventurous and the music is dramatic, often surging, but also sometimes overly crude. Overall, I recommend you see EO, for you might respond more viscerally, but I thought it (like many recent films) a squandered opportunity.

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