×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Sylvio’

A gorilla (played by a man in a costume) struggles with alienation and local TV stardom in Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney’s wacko indie.

Director:
Kentucker Audley, Albert Birney
With:
Sylvio Bernardi, Kentucky Audley, Tallie Medel, Peter Davis, Derek Moody, Meghan Doherty, Jay Lujan. (English dialogue)
Release Date:
Oct 12, 2017

1 hour 20 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6459382/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

Curios don’t get much more curious than “Sylvio,” which has the distinction of being both the weirdest, and most affecting, feature ever made starring a man in a monkey suit — or, to be more precise, a man in a monkey suit wearing a monkey suit. The story of a forlorn “ape” who has a 9-to-5 office cubicle job and finds fame by becoming the very thing he doesn’t want to be, this charming lo-fi indie from actor-director Kentucker Audley and director Albert Birney is attuned to its own eccentric wavelength, equal parts absurd and poignant. It won’t attract more than a niche audience, but a cult following for this bizarro effort seems quite possible.

Based on “Simply Sylvio,” a series of avant-garde Vine videos created by Birney, the Kickstarter-funded “Sylvio” details the solitary existence of a Baltimore-based gorilla named Sylvio Bernardi (credited as himself), played by a person wearing a suit and tie and sunglasses over an inexpressive animal costume. Sylvio is employed at a debt collection agency where — because he doesn’t speak — he makes phone calls using a computer that robotically verbalizes his typing. It’s an unrewarding vocation, and Sylvio thus finds fulfillment primarily in his free time, be it by playing basketball or by making puppet shows titled “The Quiet Times With Herbert Herpel,” about a bald, mustached middle-aged gentleman who, in each episode, carries out a simple task, such as enjoying a Christmas feast or chopping firewood.

Sylvio’s monotonous day-to-day routine is upended when he’s sent out into the field to collect on the outstanding debt of Alan Reynolds (Audley), who hosts a daily TV talk show in his basement dubbed “The Afternoon Show With Alan Reynolds.” Mistaken for a guest who juggles, Sylvio smashes his props and immediately becomes a small-screen sensation, soon starring in his own segment, “What’s the Ape Gonna Break?” Nonetheless, as evidenced by his reserved demeanor and fondness for cat posters that advise “Breathe In, Chill Out,” Sylvio’s new angry-beast persona doesn’t jibe with his true nature. And as climactic revelations mount — conveyed via flashbacks to prior “Herbert Herpel” installments — it turns out to be a role he’s been actively fighting against for years.

Similar to Dave McCary and Kyle Mooney’s “Brigs by Bear,” “Sylvio” has a fetishistic fascination with old, corny DIY-style TV aesthetics, including scrawled title cards, hand-made sets and props, and an eclectic score consisting of synthesizers and electronic drum beats, piano and acoustic guitar. As befitting their tale about a man in a simian Halloween costume who is accepted as a natural part of the real (if off-kilter) human world, Audley and Birney get considerable mileage out of visually droll juxtapositions, none better than Sylvio morosely trudging to work on the sidewalk and being passed by a random, sprinting businessman. In moments such as this, the film achieves an odd, lyrical humor, all while also tapping into the fundamental disaffection plaguing its main character.

Beneath its silly exterior, replete with jabs at mainstream audiences’ low-brow tastes and industry bigwigs’ opportunistic sleaziness, “Sylvio” boasts a distressed soul. That’s because, as insane as it sounds, Audley and Birney’s collaboration is rooted in universal themes: the despair of loneliness; the corrosiveness of peer pressure; the desire for a connection with, and the understanding of, others; and the difficulty of both changing and staying true to yourself. To be sure, this is a film peppered with unusual gags and unexpected references to “Raging Bull” and “Full Metal Jacket” — two other likeminded sagas about bestial men. Yet even when their bananas premise grows a bit stale, the directors prove at least semi-serious about their material’s rawer emotions, thereby making the film an uncanny character study about an alienated anthropomorphic primate who yearns to be himself.

Film Review: ‘Sylvio’

Reviewed online, Stamford, Conn., Oct. 10, 2017. Running time: 80 MIN.

Production: A Factory 25 release of a Preble Pictures presentation in association with Dogfish Pictures, Privateer Entertainment, Salem Street Entertainment and UnLtd Prods. Producer: Meghan Doherty. Executive producers: James Belfer, Kent Osborne, Tanner Beard, Todd Remis, David Moscow, Jason Dreyer. CREW: Directors, editors: Kentucker Audley, Albert Birney. Screenplay: Audley, Birney, Meghan Doherty. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Eric Laplante. Music: Thomas Hughes, Gretchen Lohse.

With: Sylvio Bernardi, Kentucky Audley, Tallie Medel, Peter Davis, Derek Moody, Meghan Doherty, Jay Lujan. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • Loureiro’s Abano, Aragón’s Caribe Music Team

    Chelo Loureiro, Emilio Aragón Team on Animated ‘Valentina’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES – Spanish producer-turned director Chelo Loureiro of Galicia’s Ábano Producións has teamed with Spanish multi-hyphenate Emilio Aragón at Caribe Music to produce the upcoming animated feature “Valentina.” Valentina turns on a girl who is tired of having Down syndrome, and believes it to be the reason she’ll never be a trapeze artist. But Valentina’s [...]

  • Morelia Brings Four Shorts To Cannes

    Morelia’s Daniela Michel Presents Four Standout Mexican Shorts at Critics' Week

    Since 2005, the Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week and Mexico’s Morelia Intl. Film Festival (FICM) have enjoyed a reciprocal relationship. Each year, a selection of short competition films from Morelia is shown in a special selection at Critics’ Week, with the features from the Cannes section screening five months later in Morelia. The short film [...]

  • Fedor Bondarchuk Drops Teaser for ‘Attraction

    Fedor Bondarchuk Drops Teaser for ‘Attraction 2’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES–Russian director Fedor Bondarchuk and his Art Pictures Studio have released the English-subbed teaser to “Attraction 2,” the sequel to Bondarchuk’s 2017 sci-fi blockbuster, which Variety has acquired exclusively. The director behind record-breaking Russian films such as World War II epic “Stalingrad” was in Cannes this week, where he presented footage from Art Pictures’ slate of upcoming [...]

  • Gkids Takes North American Rights for

    Gkids Takes North American Rights for ‘Weathering With You’

    CANNES–Gkids, the U.S. distributor of 11 best animated feature Oscar nominees, has acquired North American rights for “Weathering With You,” the new film from director Makoto Shinkai and producer Genki Kawamura. Gkids has set an awards-qualifying run for 2019 with a theatrical release in early 2020, in both the original Japanese and a new English-language [...]

  • Transilvania Film Fest Launches New SVOD

    Transilvania Film Fest Launches New SVOD Platform

    CANNES–The Transilvania Intl. Film Festival has announced a new SVOD service, TIFF Unlimited, which will launch during the festival’s 18th edition, which bows May 31 in Cluj, Romania. The service will curate titles from current and previous editions of the festival, while also showcasing other hand-picked auteur-driven productions, presented in partnership with local distributors. It [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content