Italian art house director Marco Ferreri takes his unique blend of melodrama and black comedy to America for a vision of life, love, aging, and a found chimp. Set against an often-surreal backdrop of New York City, Gerard Depardieu heads an international cast as a Frenchman dealing with
society's misfits and the loss of his own humanity.
Lafayette (Gerard Depardieu) is the only male working for a radical feminist theater troupe. And realizing that they can't effectively argue against rape until they've actually experienced the act firsthand, the women break a bottle over Lafayette's head and abuse him. He later runs into eccentric
old anarchist Luigi (Marcello Mastroianni) who, while roaming lower Manhattan, comes across a gigantic ape lying dead, with the World Trade Center in the background and a baby chimpanzee buried in its fur. Luigi shares his discovery with Lafayette and their mutual friends; he then gives the baby
chimp to Lafayette to care for. Lafayette takes in the cute little chimp, treating it like it was a human baby, but during a visit to New York's Wax Museum of Imperial Rome, the owner, Andreas Flaxman (James Coco), warns him that the monkey will destroy his freedom.
Lafayette, his girlfriend Angelica (Gail Lawrence), and Luigi successfully get the chimp identity papers. But events begin to spiral downward when Luigi is discovered dead, after hanging himself in his garden. Then, when Angelica admits she's pregnant, Lafayette refuses to believe he's the father,
and she runs off. To make matters worse, he returns home and finds his monkey dead--to be specific, eaten by rats. Losing everything important in his life, Lafayette goes to the wax museum, is ridiculed for being an "incomplete man," and after attacking Andreas, the building goes up in flames.
Lafayette dies in the fire, and years later, we glimpse Angelica and her child frolicking nude on a beach.
While the script's inherent strangeness keeps it fascinating (in much the same way as a highway pile-up), the movie is little more than a series of disjointed, increasingly outlandish episodes. We're shown a modern society on the precipice of self-ruin, with younger characters who are deluded and
older ones who are forgotten. And what's with this giant ape carcass, besides an obvious reference to Dino De Laurentiis' KING KONG (1976)? Although loaded with similarly wild imagery, when it comes to telling a story, Ferreri is lost without a compass. The cast tries their best, with little
success, and only Mastroianni registers any humanity--thanks to his own natural charm, not the role he portrays. Meanwhile, Depardieu puts his dignity (and limited knowledge of English) on the line with dialogue like "Ma munkee iz dead," or blowing on a whistle instead of speaking. As social
satire, this is unfathomable; as simple melodrama, it's a fiasco; still, there's such a genuinely odd spin to the proceedings that you can almost understand what drew the cast and crew to this pretentious patchwork in the first place. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations,profanity.)
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- Released: 1978
- Rating: NR
- Review: Italian art house director Marco Ferreri takes his unique blend of melodrama and black comedy to America for a vision of life, love, aging, and a found chimp. Set against an often-surreal backdrop of New York City, Gerard Depardieu heads an international c… (more)