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

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

It's been 15 years since Vin Diesel walked away from his XXX role, killing off...

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Advertisement
Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet 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.