Koko: A Talking Gorilla

I can’t, and will not try to, speak to the nature of the Gorilla Foundation’s current model, but the one recorded in Barbet Schroeder’s 1978 documentary on Penny Patterson’s attempts to teach Koko a modified version of American Sign Language appear to lack a certain rigor that Pat and I question. Pat, having been an anthropology undergrad, has seen and critiqued the film before. While Schroeder damningly states that Koko may become the world’s first White American Protestant Gorilla, Dr. Patterson may have just ruined a perfectly good monkey. Schroeder mostly lets the issue lay bare and allows the viewer to decide the experiments merit and achievements. I say mostly because his talk with San Francisco Zoo Director Saul Kitchener makes that zoologist with a primate specialty look like a mean man who wants to take his ape back from the loving psychologist (who wants to give it hamburgers). Along the way we talk about racism and classism, To Kill a Mockingbird and Planet of the Apes, because this wouldn’t be Lost in Criterion if we didn’t.

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The last time we heard from Barbet Schroeder was in his documentary General Idi Amin Dada about a clearly insane man which allowed us to talk about exploitation in documentaries which gets even more interesting when you can't be sure if it's the director or the subject exploiting the other more.

The very next film he worked on may lead to similar concerns of exploitation if it weren't for the concept of informed consent and the fairly clear facts that everything is above board and everyone is on board and a certain board gets used for a purpose I will not quickly forget, but I digress.

Maîtresse (1975) is a traditional boy-meets-girl love story where one part of the couple has to come to terms with something the other does that threatens to undermine their relationship. It's a common enough storyline, though the "something" in this particular instance is that Gerard Depardieu's new girlfriend is a BDSM mistress. Originally Rated X in the US and flat out banned in Britain despite the act that the Brits recognized it as a worthwhile film with some rather graphic content that they just weren't comfortable with.

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General Idi Amin Dada

General Idi Amin Dada (1974) finds the titular Ugandan dictator more or less taking over film making duties for French documentarian Barbet Schroeder. Schroeder still makes the movie his in the narration and editing, and manages to undermine everything Idi Amin tried to brag on. Not that the self-deluded dictator needed any help showing that his points of pride were reasons to be mocked. Murderous men dig their own graves.