Marco Ferreri | 1973 | 130 min | France/Italy
In this rarely screened, hard to find '70s classic, a chef (Ugo Tognazzi), a TV producer (Michel Piccoli), a pilot (Marcello Mastroianni) and a judge (Philippe Noiret) get together for a weekend of gastronomic indulgence. Sounds like the setup to a joke, but La Grande Bouffe’s punchline turns out to be hilariously sinister. What seems at first to be a weekend getaway of indulgence and vice turns out to be a morbid pact between the friends, who threaten quite literally eat themselves to death if they don’t take a break from their grotesque and exuberant bacchanalian feast.
A bit like Pier Paolo Passolini’s Salò in terms of premise but quite different in execution, La Grande Bouffe pushes the basest human desires to some extreme limits. It’s certainly funny to watch some of Europe’s best respected actors engage in gross, creepy, over-the-top behaviour (fart jokes featuring Michel Piccoli seem jarringly, darkly hilarious), but the humour in La Grande Bouffe is actually quite cynical – presenting the pillars of a morally bankrupt society at their most depraved and nihilistic, as mountains of puddings, roasts, cakes and pies make their ways into their gluttonous stomachs.
I’m not sure if La Grande Bouffe is the most appetizing of food movies (certainly, the levels of excess that the characters engage in should be enough to put one off eating) but I have to be honest, just seeing chef Ugo’s “pâté cathedral” (pictured above) was enough to make me consider barricading myself in a country house with a big-rig's worth of meat.