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BYE BYE MONKEY [Ciao Maschio] (1978).

Never one to embrace the ordinary, Italian arthouse director Marco Ferreri went hog wild with this New York City-based oddity starring Gerard Depardieu (back in his early, more subversive years, before turning into a fat French joke). And if you thought Ferreri's LA GRANDE BOUFFE or THE LAST WOMAN were strange, he was simply warming up for this wrongheaded vision of America. The plot alone is enough to leave your queasy, with Depardieu playing a French cad (a big stretch, eh?) who works with a troupe of half-baked radical feminists (isn't that redundant?) who feels they can't effectively argue against rape until they've actually experienced the act firsthand. Later, he runs into eccentric old fart Marcello Mastroianni, who, while roaming Lower Manhattan, stumbles across a giant (fake) ape lying dead near the Hudson at the foot of the World Trade Center (shades of Dino DeL.'s KING KONG!), with a baby chimpanzee buried in its fur. And it's no surprise when Depardieu adopts the cute li'l hairball, since they almost look like father 'n' son. The plot continues to spin uncontrollably for the first two-thirds, then picks up when girlfriend Gail Lawrence gets pregnant, Gerard is left alone with his monkey, and everybody's life descends into the crapper. To be honest, I don't have a clue what the hell Ferreri is trying to say, except for a few vague gestures about humanity. Modern society is on the precipice of self-ruin, the younger characters are lost and deluded, the older ones are weird and forgotten, and everybody within camera range is a total freak. Meanwhile, Depardieu puts his dignity (and limited knowledge of English) on the line with snappy dialogue like "Ma munkee iz dead". The odd supporting cast features James Coco as the owner of an Imperial Rome Wax Museum, and 64-year-old Geraldine Fitzgerald gets felt-up by Gerard at a party (the fact he does it without flinching proves his acting ability). Despite copious nudity from the gorgeous Ms. Lawrence (MANIAC) and the lumpen Depardieu (ugh...), little is erotic. And although loaded with wild imagery (a giant ape head laying alone in the middle of the beach, a wax museum aflame), when it comes to telling a story, Ferreri seems lost without a compass. So once again, we get a bunch of pretentious foreigners who come to NYC and make an absurd Lobster Epic that never gets a release in the States. God bless their wrongheaded souls.

© 1996 by Steven Puchalski.