This week, the BBC broadcast the first film ever shot by chimpanzees. The film, a research project created at the Edinburgh Zoo, launches a new chapter in film history. In the year 2050, the following article will be published in Cinema.
The release of the 40th Anniversary Criterion Edition of The First Film Ever Shot By Chimpanzees revives the debate over the film's merits, a point driven home at a recent retrospective screening of the now seminal work in primate cinematography.
"The film's primitive," said Ian Nagel, professor of film history at York University. "The camera movements are crazy-shaky - it makes The Blair Witch Project look like Last Year in Marienbad .
"And yes, the frequent, obtrusive edits give the impression the camera's been dropped suddenly in the mud. The viewer can almost hear the director thinking, 'Oh! A tire swing!' But the chimps keep licking the camera, which is hilarious.
"As I wrote in my thesis, 'That is hilarious; I love it when chimps lick things,' the film's beyond innovative. Orson Welles, even in his later works, never ate the camera - although it's rumoured that some of the smaller and more magnificent Ambersons went missing from the set of that film, all on Mr. Welles's watch."
However, Mr. Nagel, who championed the film's restoration, remains in the minority.
While the chimp's early work, with its more naturalistic style, was once believed to have been a carefully articulated rejection of the bourgeois artifice of cinéma de qualité , the emergence of Chimp Cinema is now widely held to be a response to the fact that chimpanzees are wild animals and some PhD student gave them a camera.
"Look, we were relatively young," said Luis the Chimp, speaking in the film's commentary, "and we were a group of chimpanzees who'd been given a box with a camera in it. Looking back, I realize that no one in the world was better positioned than us to make a film that commented on the essential absurdity of mankind.
"Some moron gave us a camera and airtime on the BBC. I think the whole absurdity-versus-meaning question was answered right there. Same as when they gave a camera to Kevin Costner.
"We had our champions: Pauline Kael once said to me, shortly before I bit her really hard on the arm, that 'we encourage creativity among the mediocre, but real bursting creativity appalls us. We put it down as undisciplined, as somehow too much.'
"I believe she was referring to the scene where I peed on the camera. I picked bugs off her for saying that. True story.
"But do I really think that we were iconoclasts, self-consciously attacking the medium on which we'd suckled? No. I keep telling, you, damn it, we're chimpanzees! We're dumber than two blocks of wood. All I'm thinking about right now is putting that red plastic bucket over my head, having sex with Babette, sticking some straw up my nose and then maybe going back to doing the bucket thing again."
"'Oh, how innovative,' critics said," sighed Bingo, one of the movement's leading auteurs, speaking from his home in the south of a zoo enclosure, "'They shot outdoors.' Of course we shot outdoors. We're chimpanzees! No one in their right mind would let us inside a house. Seriously, I want to throw poo at you so bad right now, I can taste it. There, I just did. Not bad.
"The truth is, I had this whole homage to Buñuel thing planned where I humped Cassie in a stone church, beside an altar, covered in bananas. We wrote a lot of fruit into our scripts back then," Bingo chuckled, scratching his hairy ass and then opening his mouth really wide before closing it again for no apparent reason.
"But ultimately we couldn't get the permits. 'Keep the damn monkeys out of my church!' the priests yelled. Yeah, we shot outdoors."
Bingo, in his 2013 autobiography, Oh For Heaven's Sake, Now They've Given Me a Typewriter , confessed that the movement's experimental use of jump cuts was also born of necessity, after the group's second A.D., Bing-Bing, ate large sections of the first reel.
"The truth is, the producers knew they'd made a mistake the second they ran out of cocaine and read their own internal memos."
"Who the hell green-lit this chimps-with-cameras project?" executive producer Sandra Green was quoted as saying. "Oh, well, just don't let Tom Cruise near it and we'll fix it in post."
The rest, as they say, is film history.