New from Peter Spedale on Be Movie See Movie: Movie Review: EO

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I’m not even a pet guy, and Homeward Bound‘s climactic scene brings me to tears every time. But I’m an easy mark for sappy good hearted manipulation. Well, if you’re someone who lives for more complex animal fare, check out EO. Wait, I take that back. It might be more fun to watch a Homeward Bound stan give EO a try: see what the enamored/confused ratio is.

Legendary Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski takes us to a traveling circus, where we meet EO: one of the donkeys carrying things at the fair. After animal rights protesters shut down the circus, EO is taken away from his human friend Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska). He then goes on a journey as epic as any other in movie history.

Leave it to the Polish arthouse to suck all the schmaltz out of an animal journey. By doing so, Skolimowski makes his job of entertaining the audience infinitely harder. EO is a non talking donkey who simply walks everywhere. The director starts by dazzling the audience with stupendous visuals, like the one in this post. Those visuals provide journey filler as EO travels from one location to the next. These filler flourishes also help tonally shift the story based on EO’s next destination and interactions.

But EO’s big success relies on connecting the audience to a non talking donkey. It takes a bit of time to get on the movie’s wavelength, as Polish circuses are about 5 levels removed from most day to day experiences. However, once EO really sets out on his own, Skolimowski really puts the audience through the ringer. He gives us all sorts of places a donkey could wind up in: some wonderfully beautiful, some scary, some downright horrific. But always our perspective is with our wordless hero, pushing forward to learn the ways of the world. At times EO is projecting different emotions despite not really doing anything different because of Skolimowski’s direction. For example, we get extreme close ups of EO’s eyes as he stares at prized horses, giving the audience almost a feeling of jealousy that the director manifests out of thin air. I admire EO more than I connect with it, but all the movie’s success is due to Jerzy Skolimowski’s adaptation of a Robert Bresson movie, which probably best explains why the donkey isn’t given a human voice or anything.

6 donkeys portrayed EO. I do wonder if Jerzy Skolimowski got distracted because of his great direction, and started trying to give notes to the donkeys to make his scenes better. Or maybe he thought it would make him come off too much like jackass. ZING! I only did it once, showing extreme restraint I think?

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