Bye Bye Monkey (1977) from The Realist

Complete spoilers:

It is fortunate that this film is filled with sex and nudity. If not, it would be suitable for torturing political prisoners, and would test to the limit the human capacity for pretentious symbolism.

Gerard Depardieu, a virtual acting machine in the English language, is money again as a lighting technician who works for a feminist theater group. The performers tie him down and rape him once in a while, just to pass the time, but one of the feminists is not so tough and treats him kindly. She becomes his girlfriend, when he isn't having sex with grannies. In theory, this movie is in English, but Depardieu is so incomprehensible that the director conceived of a gimmick to eliminate the big fella's lines. Depardieu wears a police whistle around his neck. He communicates by blowing it in different ways for different occasions. I had an ex-girlfriend that did the same thing, but that's another story.


Geraldine Fitzgerald (age 64) had an upskirt in a love scene with Depardieu (age 28)

Gail Lawrence showed every inch of her body repeatedly.

The central event of the film occurs when one of Depardieu's pals is just strolling along the beach one day when he spots a life size replica of King Kong. Funny he missed that in previous walks. Inside the giant plaster ape is a living baby ape. Since the little female chimpanzee doesn't seem to have a home or an owner, Depardieu adopts her.  The radical feminists ridicule him for being a pussy because their own liberation is so complete that they don't understand the need to nurture. Depardieu may understand the need, but he needs some work on the mechanics, because he leaves the helpless chimp untended and she is overwhelmed by rats.

Meanwhile, the man who owns the local wax museum imagines that he is still living in Ancient Rome, and burns down the museum, apparently to create a genuine feel for what it was like to be Nero. I think this symbolizes history repeating itself. Or perhaps it symbolizes man's eternal need to burn shit down in order to create a nifty and dramatic movie ending.

This film won the Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes, the same award that we would call "The Most Pretentious Piece of Gibberish" in the States. Its defenders claim that it portrays the disintegration of sex roles and the decline of the nuclear family, proving that mankind is doomed to destruction unless sensible people find a way to avoid repeating history's mistakes. I would contend that it portrays the disintegration of screenwriting, proving the movies are doomed to destruction unless sensible people find a way to avoid giving any more money to the people responsible for films like this.

I suppose you are wondering about the title - why is it "Bye Bye Monkey", when there is no monkey anywhere in the movie? Several reasons.

First, English is the rare language which makes a distinction between an ape and a monkey. We are certain that an ape is a higher form of primate, so if you slip up and call a chimp or an orangutan a "monkey", some anal-retentive will jump on your case and remind you that they are apes. Other languages don't produce this argument. The director is Italian. Get yourself an Italian dictionary and look up "ape" and "monkey" - you will see that they are both "scimmia". The production company is French. Get yourself a French dictionary and look up the two words - you will see that they are both "singe". In German, both "Affe". In Spanish, both "mono". In Polish, both "zeszecnykrzebrzeprzewiak". I'm just kidding about the Polish word. The actual word for both is "małwa", which is pronounced, simply enough, "zeszecnykrzebrzeprzewiak", like all other Polish words. Since all their words sound alike, the only way Polish people can understand each other is by their tone of voice and facial expressions. Many Polish people, understandably frustrated with the limitations of their language, carry around a Pictionary set with them at all times, or become very adept at charades. Getting back to the point, the people involved in making this movie were not aware of the fact that there were no monkeys in it. For them, a monkey is an ape, an ape is a monkey.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic, (1.75)

Second, the translation is not literal. The original Italian title is "Ciao Maschio". Maschio isn't a monkey. It is pretty much equivalent to the Spanish word "macho", a word which Americans have adopted as well. The original title would mean something like, "The End of Macho", or "Farewell to Macho", which is actually what the movie is supposed to be about, if I understand it, which I probably don't.

Third, "Bye Bye Birdie" was already taken, so they changed the name of Depardieu's character to Conrad Monkey, or as they say in Polish, Conrad Zeszecnykrzebrzeprzewiak. 

The Critics Vote

  • Apollo 77/100

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.3/10, Apollo users 63/100
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

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