Have you ever woken up from a dream in the middle of the night and thought it was the most amazing idea for a story that you’ve ever had? You scribble it down as fast as you can while the details are still fresh in your mind and then you go back to sleep. When you wake up in the morning you read it and wonder what in the hell made you think it was a good idea in the first place.
I’m pretty sure Marco Ferreri did the same thing except when he read his scribblings, he would call his producer and say “Hey, I have an idea for my next movie.”
I can’t think of any other explanation for “Bye Bye Monkey,” not even a full-blown stoner haze. Ferreri’s first English-language film, “Monkey” is more of a collection of disjointed ideas than an actual story. A brief plot summary is the only way to convey the essence of this terminally strange movie.
New York City is in the throes of a giant rat infestation. Dozens of men dressed head to in exterminator’s gear patrol the streets, looking like the advance phalanx of an alien invasion. But that’s only a minor part of the story, at least until the end.
Lafayette (Gérard Depardieu) is the only man who performs in a feminist theater/ballet troupe. The women brainstorm ideas for their next show. They toss around the idea of doing a show about rape (“Rape is very fashionable.”) but, of all the bad luck, none of them have been raped. They decide that the only way to learn about rape is to experience it but since none of them particularly wants to be on the receiving end, they decide to rape Lafayette instead. While having her way with him, Angelica (pornstar Abigail Clayton acting under the name Gail Lawrence) falls for the big lug.
After being raped, Lafayette, who seems none the worse for wear, is walking along the beach with a few friends. Quite naturally, he stumbles upon the corpse of King Kong lying sprawled out on the sand and unnoticed by everyone else. His friend Luigi (Marcello Mastroianni) wanders along too and finds a baby monkey hiding inside under one of Kong’s paws. He gives the monkey to Lafayette who raises him as his baby.
The rest of the movie has already begun to blur in my memory even though I saw it just two days ago. All I know is that Marco Ferreri is insane. Sometimes this insanity is inspired like “Don’t Touch the White Woman.” Other times insanity is simply inanity as is the case with “Bye Bye Monkey.” I’ve described the story to several people now and the reaction is always “I have got to see this movie” but the telling is much more enjoyable than the viewing. Perhaps at a crisper running time, the proto-Charlie Kauffman weirdness would have been enough to hold my attention, but at 113 minutes it runs out of ideas by the halfway point and becomes an interminable bore.
The monkey is cute though. And Depardieu gets naked a few times, if that’s your thing. So does Abigail Clayton which might make you nostalgic for the pre-boob job era of porn. Oh yeah, James Coco is in the movie too. And he doesn’t get naked which is one of the few wise decisions Ferreri made in this film.
The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is awful. It’s very likely another PAL transfer. The image quality is poor, the colors are off and it’s all around ugly.
The DVD is presented in Dolby Digital Mono. No subtitles are provided which can be a bit of a problem with Depardieu’s thick accent, but it’s manageable.
The only extra is a 3 minute excerpt from the documentary “Marco Ferreri: The Director Who Came from the Future.”
“Bye Bye Monkey” isn’t very good but after seeing this film and the other Koch Lorber release this month, “Don’t Touch the White Woman,” I’m interested in checking out more of Marco Ferreri’s work. I have it on good authority that “Dillinger is Dead” (1969) and “La grande bouffe” (1973) should be next on my list. I’m looking forward to both.