Regular viewers of the Funhouse in Manhattan will be aware of my abiding love for the work of over-the-top Italian filmmaker Marco Ferreri. Best known for his film La Grande Bouffe (1973), in which a quartet of sophisticated, haute bourgeois gentlemen decide to eat (and screw, and fart) themselves to death, Ferreri made films about obsession — although he denied this in our exclusive interview with him a short while before his death. In any case, Ferreri’s filmography is littered with major stars doing strange, embarrassing things in the midst of allegorical storylines in which they become obsessed with some object or concept.
In the case of the masterwork of strangeness I’ve decided to inaugurate our “foreign fare” clips with, Bye Bye Monkey stars the always game Gerard Depardieu. Here Gerard becomes obsessed with his adopted “son,” a chimp that his friend Marcello (yes, that Marcello) has discovered near the body of a giant dead ape (Marco got a Kong from his pal Dino). The dead ape’s body is located right near where the World Trade Center used to stand, so the central clip I’m excerpting is an eerie moment in which a prescient lullabye is sung by the always-aged actress Geraldine Fitzgerald. I follow this with the exchange that became an early favorite on the show: Gerard’s revelation that his chimp pal has been consumed by the eternal inhabitants of our fair city. His tormentor/boss is played by the inimitable James Coco, he of Calucci’s Department and The Dumplings fame (there’s nothing sweeter than a failed sitcom to jog the memory, is there?). We will sample further works by Il Maestro Marco in the weeks to come, but now let’s help Gerard bid farewell to his monkey pal.
One postscript: To add to the eerie atmosphere surrounding this strange, surreal film (an allegory about --would you believe it -- feminism), I have to note that I have a still Ferreri autographed when I interviewed him. It’s a shot of him demonstrating the grand gesture (arms outstreched) that Depardieu performs in the clip above. The photo contains Ferreri, the giant “dead” monkey, and the sandy area beneath them -- with the late, lamented Twin Towers just out of the frame. For some whimsical reason, Signore Ferreri decided to sign the picture with the sentence “Il Posto Non Existe (This place isn’t here).” He was as inscrutable as his films -- and, since I had him write it with the only implement I had, a ballpoint pen, his pronouncement is slowly disappearing....
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