Film review: “EO” by Jerzy Skolimowski

In her daily critical post, Lucile Commeaux casts her sharp and sparkling gaze on a cultural object.

Today the movie EO of Jerzy Skolimowski, to discover in theaters :

This is a film that looks like only itself. This double vowel title is the Polish version of the donkey’s cry, “Hi-Han” as we would say in France. The film was talked about at the last Cannes Film Festival where it competed in official competition for the Palme d’Or and finally won the Jury Prize.

It is therefore the story of a donkey which is at the beginning the property of a circus where he participates in a number with his rider and protector, a beautiful young woman who takes great care of him. One day the circus is dismantled. It’s the beginning of a new life for EO, ​​who goes through multiple experiences from then on: help in a sheep farm, ephemeral mascot for a football club, injured in a veterinary clinic, companion of a rich decadent. The film follows the donkey and adopts its point of view, when it gets lost, when it runs away, when it attaches itself, in a form that has everything picaresque, but a picaresque without a rider, with only the mount .

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The director Jerzy Skolimowski, to whom we owe in particular deep-endhas often quoted Robert Bresson’s film Random balthazar on the occasion of the release of EO like a film that moved and marked him a lot. Certainly there is a donkey, but this reference works more like a decoy, in the same way that the film escapes all the forms, genres and discourses to which it sometimes pretends to assimilate. One can fear, especially at the beginning, that the narrative freezes in a fixed form – the tale, for example – but the film is cleverer and in one scene changes style, constantly returning back to back all the categories.

The film first adopts a somewhat aesthetic dreamlike form, with super-sophisticated light and sound effects, and a few minutes later, we find ourselves in a sort of hyper-realistic regime, when the donkey finds itself in the field on a farm. Then with this football club story, we are in a somewhat burlesque social comedy. With this rich Italian character, we almost flirt with the mafia film or the family drama.

A gender bias

The donkey therefore crosses totally different regimes of images, sounds, lights, sometimes large spaces traversed by wild horses like in a western, sometimes farms filmed like in a documentary, sometimes a hyper-manicured garden like a surreal decor. There are surprises in this film, whose erratic form defies all expectations. All this creates a deeply playful effect, like a game of treasure hunts whose purpose would be hard to sum up. There is certainly something of the ecological and animalistic fable. Skolimowski films the donkey like a human actor whose point of view he often adopts by filming very close to his eye, on his shoulder, and shows at the turn of each of his adventures a possible tragic outcome which is that of animals today. today: the circus, which is also stopped under the pressure of animal activists, breeding and the food industry, a double threat for it since it can both be the adjuvant of man and eat him -even, the gratuitous violence of men who attack those more fragile than themselves. The threat is permanent, which means that we very quickly feel a tenderness for EO that the film anchors deeply in the spectator, by filming his eyes for a long time, by showing him mute and vulnerable. However, the film is much more than just this committed fable, moreover one can wonder if, like the circus, the film is not also a place of exploitation of EO. What is remarkable in the end is not so much that his hero is an animal, but that he is also poignant, a pure eye like a bias to cross a diverse and complicated world, tender and cruel, real and nightmarish, a world made up of multiple images and forms of cinema.

Lucile Commeaux

  • EO of Jerzy Skolimowski is in theaters

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Film review: “EO” by Jerzy Skolimowski