Marco Ferreri – Ciao maschio aka Bye Bye Monkey (1978)

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Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, in 1978. It would be interesting to bail up the panel now and ask them why they gave Ferreri’s film the award (in a tied decision with in tie with Jerzy Skolimowski’s The Shout). I suspect that they would not remember, let alone be able to explain why. In the 70s the absurdist, non-conventional, sexually-candid aspects of the film were all qualities that were regarded as inherently significant but times change and like so many films of its era, the meaning is now far less apparent. Broadly speaking, Ferreri’s first English-language film is a Fellini-esque portrait of the male species under attack from castrating women. Gérard Depardieu stars as a lighting technician who is raped multiple times by the members of the feminist theatrical group he works for. He subsequently finds a baby chimpanzee inside the remains of a huge stuffed gorilla and starts a relationship with one of his rapists. Marcello Mastroianni as a lonely old man and James Coco as a decadent wax museum owner also move in and out of the story. Whilst the images of the characters with the beached giant gorilla (which presumably Ferreri salvaged from Dino De Laurentis’ 1976 remake of King Kong) shot against the New York skyline are haunting and there are individual moments of surreal humour throughout the film, the absence of much in the way of narrative, characterological or dramatic development will make Ferreri’s film a trial for those other than students of the era or of the director’s work in particular.
BH @ cinephilia.net.au

[…]
Nothing in the world Marco Ferreri creates in the film is literal; all events, characters, and dialogue are symbolic and have multiple and sometimes conflicting meanings. Bye Bye Monkey is a unique type of puzzle; one where the goal is not to fit the pieces together but to learn to accept that it does not have a solution.
[…]
Bye Bye Monkey depicts feminity and female empowerment as a force detrimental to society. Nowhere is this more evident than in the film’s central plot point of Lafayette adopting a baby monkey found near King Kong’s corpse. Luigi is the first to spot the creature, and laments that he is too old to care for it and gives it to Lafayette. The monkey symbolizes a compromise of one’s masculine attributes in favor of more feminine ones.
[…]
Bye Bye Monkey is a “critic’s film”. For a film critic, there is a lot of material to work with but little to be entertained by or enjoy.
The average viewer will find the film even less worthy of their time. Bye Bye Monkey is a stereotypical “foreign film” in the negative sense of that term. It is masterfully directed, elegantly shot, and superbly acted. It is also high on pretense and purposefully unintelligible. One is left with a deep admiration for Ferreri’s abilities as a filmmaker, but absolutely no desire to experience those abilities ever again.
Full review: David Ray Carter @ Pop Matters






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