She is 40 years old, lives in Paris, has long, reddish hair, seems lost in thought and has a majestic aura about her: Nénette, the film's star, is an orang-utan from the ape house at the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes. Nénette is a professional: she is relaxed and indifferent as she takes in the parade of people who file past her glass cage daily. From her gallery, she looks down on the goings-on of her younger fellows and watches the visitors, who often just come for her sake.
We watch the animals. The animals watch us. In the zoo and in the cinema, both institutions where a stage-like construction and the act of seeing are central. A show for both sides. Nicolas Philibert's film only shows the apes, being fed, spending time and especially being idle. There is no reverse-shot of those following the apes' actions. The screen belongs to the animal alone. And yet the human is reflected in the observation of the animal, as well as in the off-camera comments of the visitors and the zookeepers: they attempt to interpret, to ascribe meaning, or to reflect zoologically and philosophically. The apes in the zoo are a projection screen – just like the screen in the movie theater.
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