Koko, a Talking Gorilla

"Excellent"

Koko, a Talking Gorilla Review


What separates man from animal? The ability to construct a society? The ability to understand complex thought? Or is it the ability to speak?

According to the lessons of KOKO, a Talking Gorilla, it's the lattermost of these. Barbet Schroeder got amazing access to several days of training sessions with the now-famous Koko, the gorilla who was taught American sign language by the time she was six and eventually learned several hundred words, plus the ability to use a rudamentary computer to "speak" aloud.

For the bulk of the film, we're locked into Koko's, well, it's part classroom, part holding cell, with her and her trainer Penny Patterson, a Portia di Rossi lookalike who is with Koko every for just about waking hour.

Now I was ready to dismiss this film as 80 minutes that would have been better off on PBS, and for a while it seems that Koko will wind up that way. But spend a little time with Koko and you'll start to fall under her spell. Is this for real? Can Koko really express preference for a red sweater over a yellow one? Can she really be saying these things?

But as fascinating as Koko is, the real star of the show turns out to be Patterson. Her patience and personal sacrifice is unfathomable. She has to be teacher to a very stubborn student and her mother, and in the gorilla world that means the occasional slap to Koko's face. Eventually we learn that if she doesn't assert herself enough, the 110-pound woman could find herself on the wrong end of a Koko attack.

And all for what? To prove that a monkey can talk? This is dedication, people.

Koko really grabs you when director Barbet Schroeder reveals that the film is completely an underground affair. Koko was on loan from the San Francisco Zoo, and the zoo wanted their property back. The cops could show up at any moment, and Patterson says she is prepared to take Koko and run. Can you imagine?

Well, Schroeder could, and in fact, in the 10-minute 2006 interview with Schroeder that's included on the film's Criterion disc, he reveals that the project had a much different beginning. His idea was to make a fiction movie about a woman who does indeed abscond with a gorilla and flees to Africa, where the film would mostly be shot. Sam Shepard was going to write the screenplay. Now can you imagine that?

Disappointingly, that's the only extra on this disc, aside from a couple of printed essays from Gary Indiana and an embarassing mess written by the late Marguerite Duras that should never have been published. Koko deserves better. Along with an apple.

Aka Koko, le gorille qui parle.



Koko, a Talking Gorilla

Facts and Figures

Run time: 85 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 4th December 1979

Production compaines: Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (INA), Les Films du Losange

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 5

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: Penny Patterson as Herself, as Le Gorille, Saul Kitchener as Directeur du Zoo de San Francisco, Carl Pribram as Le professeur de Neuroscience

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.