In "Bestiaire," a documentary by Canadian filmmaker Denis Côté set amid an animal park in Quebec, viewers watch as all manner of exotic creatures are fed and cared for, hustled from their interior shelters to the out-of-doors. Their human minders are unseen at first, and emerge only through Côté's careful balancing act between an instinctive world and one of human intervention.
The film has a meditative calm about it — there are only a few murmured words of French but nothing that could be called dialogue — with also some underlying tension, because as you look at the animals, they so often look back, their inscrutable consciousness both placid and unyielding. Any description of the film likely makes it sound drier and more rigorous than it actually is; 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.
Côté, working with cinematographer Vincent Biron and editor Nicolas Roy, has a real sense of wit in how he constructs the images, such as when he cuts from animals being fed to an attendant crunching into an apple. The camera doesn't move, and the compositions are masterful, changing perspective from shot to shot in a rich, magnificent way.