M The arco Ferreri movie from 1964 The Donna Scimmia (The Ape Woman) is a bizarre satire whose effect depends on keeping you unsure of how bizarre and satirical it is supposed to be. This is due to the vivid sentimental tragicomedy streak that runs through the film - in fact, through the two versions of the film which were made and which arenow included in the Blu-ray and digital versions of this release. Producer Carlo Ponti persuaded the director to create a 'happy ending' version so that the film could be shown at the Cannes film festival, and there is the original version that Ferreri shot with its much darker ending. But you have to watch out for both; this double story gives the film a new tenderness and complexity.
The Ape Woman is inspired by the true story of Julia Pastrana , a 19th-century Mexican indigenous woman with hypertrichosis, a condition that meant hair covered her entire body. Like "Elephant Man ", she was exploited as a fairground monster. Ferreri's drama, which is now set in 1964, gives us a mischievous and seedy entrepreneur called Antonio, played by Ugo Tognazzi, who brought his slide projector to a convent in Naples to mount a specSupposedly improved and educational tackle on missionaries in Africa. In the kitchens of the convent, he discovers a chilly young novitiate, Maria (Annie Girardot), who is ashamed to be terribly covered with hair. Antonio chivvies and charms the poor girl and persuades the sisters to let him take her home, eventually agreeing to marry her so that he can put on an alley show in a converted warehouse that we have to frolic in and out of a cage, pretending to be a monkey, as Antonio snaps a whip and tells the stunned crowds that he has found her in Africa.
Soon, Maria becomes more confident in her performance and the local impresario Majeroni (Achille Majeroni) brings his absurd act to Paris, turned into an exotic striptease routine. Maria becomes pregnant; in one reality she and her shaggy baby die miserably in childbirth, but in the otherversion, she survives, with a normal baby. However, the experience causes her own excess hair to fall out and she becomes like any wife and mother, while Antonio humbly submits to normal docks work. It's not about one ending being better or more authentic than the other: they must be consumed in parallel.
The 21st century audience century will, naturally, see The Ape Woman as a satire on misogyny, racism and exploitation. So it is comparable, in its surreal challenge to good taste, to Tod Browning's 1932 Freaks , or Max Mon Amour by Nagisa Oshima from 1986, with a woman taking on a chimpanzee as her lover. It also recalls the MC's scary song in Cabaret with her monkey-faced lover: "If you could see it through my eyes… it wouldn't look Jewish at all. " But it's also clearly intended in other, less readable ways: as a widely caveat heartwarming, albeit odd, about pride, redemption, and love.
There are some incredible moments in The Monkey Woman: in particular Antonio and Maria 's wedding, when he takes her outside to parade the streets while she sings the wedding song through a microphone. And there is something very sorry about their striptease, with its new sensuality macabre which portends what we have no other choice but to regard as a loss of innocence.
Maybe the moment came to see this film not as a black comic provocation, but thatsomething to put next to La Strada de Fellini , something intimate, a vision of poignant lust with its alternate realities: Antonio saving his wife's mummified corpse from the museum so that he can continue to make a gruesome spectacle with him, and Antonio meets his wife and child for lunch while he works hard at the docks. Ferrera (and Ponti) kind of created something daringly postmodern.