Judge Joel Pearce tried to adopt Godzilla's daughter, but she didn't fit in with the rest of his family.
"…ranks among the most symbolic and bizarre works from Italy's 'King of the Bizarre.'"
They aren't lying on the cover. Bye Bye Monkey is one of the most bizarre films I have ever seen, though I'm not entirely sure about the symbolism. Perhaps the symbolism made more sense 30 years ago. Now, the whole thing just seems strange.
Facts of the Case
Lafayette (Gérard Depardieu, Babylon A.D.) lives in New York and hangs out with his friend Luigi (Marcello Mastroianni, Blow Out) and a female theatre troupe. One day walking along the bank of the river, Lafayette and Luigi find the body of King Kong and his infant son, whom Lafayette decides to keep.
Before I get into my criticism about Bye Bye Monkey, I will make a few major concessions. The film features a genuinely impressive cast, who give uniformly great performances. This is especially true coming from such an international cast, who have a lot of fun with their strange characters and the odd situations they find themselves in. The cast juggles the perfect balance between winking at the audience in realization of the overall ridiculousness of the film and playing it straight, preventing the whole affair from descending into cheap laughs.
Ferreri also turns out to be a highly skilled director. Bye Bye Monkey is stunningly filmed, featuring excellent cinematography, and a number of touching and fascinating moments. Even at its most strange, we always feel as though it should all connect and make sense, even though I'm pretty sure it doesn't.
Despite these solid performances and some fine direction, I get the sinking suspicion that Ferreri wasn't really sure what he wanted this film to be like before he started filming. There is the main monkey plot, but there isn't enough to it to fill up a feature-length running time. So, much of the film is spent with the characters, placing them in bizarre situations and adding more strange characters to fill up time. While some of these are interconnected (fans would say symbolic), others seem to have little connection to anything else. It feels as though the running time has been padded.
This scattered approach has an unreasonable number of tones crammed into a single film. Some of the sequences are simply silly, such as the various performances of the theatre troupe. At the same time, social satire is crammed in as well, like the wax museum owner who is forced to make his ancient Roman figures look like current international politicians. Blend these with Lafayette's love affair with Angelica (Gail Lawrence, Maniac) and his adopted monkey, and only the most eclectic film fans will be able to appreciate this mangled mess. In the end, the rest of us are left wondering what the point of it all is—and wishing we could see Ferreri put together something a little more palatable.
The DVD has been assembled well by Koch Lorber. The video transfer looks great for a low-budget film from the '70s, and has been anamorphically enhanced. The sound is less impressive, given that it's the original mono track, but it's easy to understand the dialogue, which is all we can really ask for sometimes. The only substantial special feature is an excerpt from a documentary on Ferreri, though it did little to enhance my enjoyment of the film.
Is Bye Bye Monkey a bad film? No, but that doesn't mean I can recommend it to most of our readers. It is, as promised, a bizarre little picture, but I don't really see its existential brilliance as promised. Instead, I see a talented director and a group of talented actors, playing around with a camera and ultimately losing their way. The resulting film is occasionally frustrating, often bewildering, sporadically entertaining, and always puzzling. If that sounds like a fun evening to you, Bye Bye Monkey is your movie.
Respect for the cast and director aside, Bye Bye Monkey is guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Lorber
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