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Marco Ferreri directed some of the most unusual films of the 1970s -
from the castration love story "La Derniere Femme", to the gluttony
fuelled orgy of "La Grande Bouffe". Bye Bye Monkey might not match
those films for quality or shock value, but it most definitely
surpasses them in the weirdness stakes.
Bye Bye Monkey is a rare exercise in cinematic existentialism that does not drown in its own pretence. In fact, the film's greatest achievement is that it somehow manages to be entertaining despite having a plot which basically involves Gerard Depardieu walking around with a monkey. There are, of course, detours from this central premise and they are just as perplexing. Ferreri offers a Roman wax museum subplot, feminist dancers interested in experiencing rape, a massive gorilla corpse/sculpture and a love scene between a young Depardieu and a then 65 year old Geraldine Fitzgerald. Did I mention that Gerard Depardieu incessantly blows a whistle throughout the film?
I'm really not sure what the film's deeper meaning is intended to be, assuming that it has one at all. Bye Bye Monkey contains so many ideas and passes comment on so many issues that I gave up trying to interpret them all. However, Ferreri's favourite theme of emasculation is unmissable in everything from the dancer rapists, to Luigi's sexual frustration and the birth registrar's comments on dressing Cornelius in girl's clothing. The film is never weighed down by its philosophy and there is just as much enjoyment to be had from the surreal imagery as from the film's ambiguous subtext.
Gerard Depardieu was doing his best work in the 1970s and he turns in another muscular performance as Lafayette. I can not imagine another major actor who would accept this role in the first place, let alone approach it with the conviction that Gerard does. Marcello Mastroianni is also great as Luigi, as is Geraldine Fitzgerald in her most controversial role. However, it is James Coco who almost manages to steal the show with his outrageously over the top performance as Mr Flaxman. As good as the actors are, this remains Ferreri's show and his direction is as stylish as ever.
Bye Bye Monkey is a real oddity of the 1970s. Ferreri was a truly unique director and this may be his most individual, if not most convincing, work.
Is it another world, or our world gone mad? Ferreri has quite an imagination, especially his use of juxtaposition: a rotting carcass of King Kong, a wax museum where James Coco reenacts parts of history, and an underground society where rats prevail. Depardieu, who's lines are badly dubbed, manages to get through this yarn uncomfortably gripping a chimp where he found beside the dead Kong. Mastroianni is always at his best, altho this time presenting a more cartoonish characterization. However, despite the exotic idiosyncrasies, this film can be rather dull at moments. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a large percentage of this movie, ad hominem the ambiguous finale which may help clarifies the film's bizarre symbolism. Watch this one on a rainy day.
Strange, and it has some interesting bits, but it's dull and nonsensically plotted. Gerard Depardieu and Marcello Mastroinanni make asses of themselves, and Gail Lawrence, better known under her porn name, Abigail Clayton, is naked for about 50% of the film. Depardieu plays a boy toy in New York City. One day his friend, played by Mastroianni, is walking along the beach when he discovers the corpse of King Kong, whose orphaned baby he gets Depardieu to adopt. The themes involve the ever-changing gender roles, and this could have been very interesting. Unfortunately, it has no real plot to speak of, and it just meanders from weird scene to weird scene. Sometimes, the visuals are quite haunting, especially when the characters are on the beach with the New York cityscape towering over them and the giant ape corpse dominating the bottom of the frame. 5/10.
an oddly desolate New York overrun by rats, Gerard Depardieu works at a Roman history wax museum, gets "raped" by a feminist performance art troupe, pals around with a sexually frustrated Marcello Mastroianni ("I have some kind of monster between my legs!"), seduces the elderly hostess of a dinner party in front of the guests, and discovers the corpse of King Kong on the beach, who is clutching an infant monkey that he then adopts. A stencil on Depardieu's wall asks "Why?!" and that's a good question. Although composed of several interesting elements (some of which recall Ferreri's earlier THE SEED OF MAN) it doesn't gel into any cohesive whole. The best I can do at putting it together is to say it's an absurdist treatise on the decline of civilization, but not all the pieces seem to fit. It's an exercise in non-sequitur, and that's not a form I enjoy very much unless it's done very light-heartedly. There are amusing moments but the overall tempo is too sluggish. Also, the performances aren't very good except for Depardieu and Mastroianni, and even they don't appear to understand what they're doing. Sometimes Ferreri's idiosyncrasies add up to something really exciting, but here it's a near miss.
This is not a real movie in terms of a story but rather a collection
impressions about the life of a lonely guy living somewhere in a future New
York slum during an apocalyptic virus wave that caused the death of
thousands of people. He's surviving by taking bizarre jobs for a living,
finally he's finding a small monkey as a buddy.
The whole atmosphere is disturbing and sinister, but the "story" is a bit lame sometimes. The photography is stunning and occasionally reminds of the famous apocalyptic paintings of Hieronimus Bosch to the shadowy impressions of Enrico de Chirico. A really disturbing, surreal French movie featuring a young Gerard Depardieu.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this film last week, through Netflix. I ended up doing a lot
of fast-forwarding after the first few minutes. I usually like
experimental films that take risks, but this does not hang together for
me at all. It was bad!
After viewing it, I checked out one of the Leonard Maltin books--they rate it as BOMB. --OK--There are some Maltin "Bombs" that I've actually liked, but this one doesn't hang together. The acting is OK I guess--but the dialog and characters are so silly and unconvincing in their actions and motivations that it all just put me off.
First objection--one of the exceedingly creepy feminist dancers hits Depardieu on the head with a Coke bottle and it breaks into pieces as it knocks him out--COKE BOTTLES DO NOT SHATTER! These bottles are thick and heavy--and they certainly were when this film was made, in 1978. Depardieu's character would have had a fractured skull in any version of "real" life. Right away the viewer thinks that this is a fakey movie.
And then the most sympathetic of the feminist dancers suddenly strips off her clothes and has sex with Gerard in front of everyone else, while he is allegedly unconscious. And then they become lovers and start living together, except that the other dancers start wearing pregnancy costumes under their leotards and then the "girlfriend" becomes pregnant.
Talk about (out)dated!--The feminist dancers are like someone's weird understanding of the "women's lib" literature of years earlier--circa 1968-1970, and the actresses in this movie are years too old to portray the characters they are supposed to be. The ending of this film--what happens to the "monkey" is so bad and amateurish on every level that I'll skip it here--I've seen more convincing special effects in grade school film projects.
--Is this a horror movie or a Roger Corman Drive-In flick? The nuttiness of this film reminds me of another "Bomb" of several years earlier--MYRA BRECKENRIDGE-- wherein stodgy, clueless Hollywood people tried to make a "hip" movie for a younger generation.
Not sure who or why this Monkey film was made--but it never hits the target. Mastrioni and Depardieu are really wasted here, and James Coco's artificial exaggerated style of Broadway acting is always hard to take on film unless there is a convincing reason for it. If you want to watch strange movies, you'd probably do better to check out the "Psychotronic Guide" or something similar.
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