AKA The Big Feast; Blow-Out
“If you don’t eat, you won’t die.”–Ugo, La Grande Bouffe
DIRECTED BY: Marco Ferreri
PLOT: Four middle-aged, upper middle-class men (a judge, a TV personality, a pilot and a chef) hole up at a country villa to feast; it is gradually and casually revealed that they plan on eating themselves to death. They gorge themselves constantly, but the pilot can’t stand to go even for a day without sex, so prostitutes are invited to join them—along with a schoolteacher who attaches herself to the group willingly. As the gluttonous orgy continues the whores flee in disgust, but the teacher joins in the bacchanalia with gusto.
- All of the main actors use their real names. All four of the male stars were well-established (Mastroianni, of course, was an international star and sex symbol). Except for Noiret, each had worked with director Ferreri before. Each had also had prominent roles in weird films from other European directors (Mastrioanni, most famously, in Federico Fellini films, but Noiret appeared in Zazie dans le Metro for Louis Malle, Piccoli was a mainstay in Buñuel movies, and Tognazzi had small roles in Roger Vadim’s Barbarella and Fellini’s Satyricon). The quartet would reunite with the director the next year for a surrealist rendering of Custer’s last stand called Don’t Touch the White Woman (starring alongside another weird favorite, Catherine Deneuve).
- The scatological content of the film scandalized some viewers at Cannes, but the film nonetheless won a FIPRESCI prize for Ferreri.
- At its British showings La Grande Bouffe was protested by infamous decency crusader Mary Whitehouse; her attempts to have the movie banned ironically led to modification of the Obscene Publications Act to exempt films with artistic merit.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The visions that will probably stick with you when you think back on La Grande Bouffe are scenes of four great European actors stuffing their faces with turkey legs, a castle made out of pâtés, and a pair of matching cakes shaped like breasts. Michel Piccoli dancing with a pig’s head is another strong candidate, as are the numerous gross scatological moments. But, the strangest and most lingering image may be the final one: sides of meat scattered around the villa lawn—a slab of beef wedged in the crook of a tree—and a pack of dogs sitting and looking attentively at the carcasses, making no move to eat.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: La Grande Bouffe takes an absurd premise—four men decide to eat themselves to death—and plays it out with illogical realism, proffering no explanations or motives for what happens. It’s an unnatural but straight-faced parable that suggests nothing about how we’re supposed to take it. It’s a grotesque spectacle, but a strangely engrossing one, with a fascination that comes largely thanks to a dream cast of 1970s Euroweirdos.
Alternate trailer for La Grande Bouffe
COMMENTS: In the course of their Grande Bouffe, the four suicidal gourmands scarf Continue reading 106. LA GRANDE BOUFFE (1973)