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

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

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.