• Grande Bouffe, La

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: August 18th, 2015.
    Director: Marco Ferreri
    Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, Ugo Tognazzi
    Year: 1973
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Marco Ferreri, La Grande Bouffe is an odd film to be sure. The story follows four wealthy French men - A chef named Ugo (Ugo Tognazzi), a judge named Philippe (Philippe Noiret), a commercial airline pilot named Macrello (Marcello Mastroianni) and a television executive named Michel (Michel Piccoli) – who all get together for one reason: to eat. These guys have got money, they don’t want for much but they’re clearly bored by the monotony of day to day existence.

    As they sit about the table they eat… and then they continue to eat. They eat a LOT – and while they do this they entertain themselves with pornography and then later with some flesh and blood women, prostitutes hired for the occasion. It would seem that these men are out to basically eat themselves to death, to overindulge to the point where their bodies simply shutdown. Things take an interesting turn, however, when Michel becomes quite smitten with Andrea (Andrea Ferréol), a curvy schoolteacher who just might be able to outdo any of these four men when it comes to gluttonous debauchery.

    Darkly comic but rather unpleasant to watch (particularly if you’re grossed out by watching people eat!), La Grande Bouffe isn’t a film at all concerned with pushing beyond the limits of good taste. Arguably Ferreri’s best known film, it’s more a series of increasingly bizarre vignettes than it is a traditional narrative and the focus here seems not to tell a story so much as it is to create out of the audience a sense of voyeurism. We are made to feel, as we watch all of this quickly spiral out of control, that we are very much a part of this – and that can make for a rather unpleasant viewing experience.

    At the same time, it’s hard to discount the humor that is so very much a part of La Grande Bouffe, be it the scene of flatulent lovemaking that takes place in surprisingly graphic style between Michel and Andrea or the movie’s infamous use and depiction of meat, it’s all presented with a surrealist’s penchant for bizarre comedy. And then there’s Marcello’s thing with the champagne bottle and, well, to go much further would simply be writing a laundry list of various perversions and where’s the fun in reading that when you can watch it play out instead. As disgusting as it all gets, and it does get pretty disgusting, it’s hard not to laugh at the over the top nature of all of this.

    Shock value put to one side though, the real reason most will be drawn to this picture is for the cast. Ferreri was savvy enough to assemble four of European cinema’s most highly regarded leading men for this film and it’s all the better for it. The performances here are unnervingly natural and it’s amazing how comfortable these four seasoned thespians appear as they go about their business. Andrea Ferréol, much like the character she plays, easily holds her own against the four men she’s cast alongside. Fans if Bunuel and Pasolini should be able to appreciate what cast and crew have accomplished with this picture, as it works on many of the same levels as some of their films. There’s no obvious explanation for why any of this happens nor are there really any answers handed out at the end – we’re left to make up our own minds about this, about why these men intend to go out the way that they do, to overdose on pleasure to the point of no return, as bourgeois types tend to do if not physically, at least metaphorically. Or is it all a bizarre depiction of the power struggle that has always existed between men and woman, a take on the battle of the sexes? You can read a lot into this if you start thinking about it too much. If nothing else, this one will make you laugh a bit and it will make you think. But have dinner before you watch it – because once it’s finished, you probably won’t have much of an appetite for a while.


    Presented in a new 2k scan from the original 35mm negative, La Grande Bouffe looks great presented here in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. This isn’t the flashiest looking film ever made but the transfer presents what looks like a pretty accurate representation of the movie’s colors and it does so with good depth and detail throughout. Though the picture is appropriately grainy there isn’t much in the way of actual print damage. There are no signs of any obvious digital manipulation while black levels stay consistent and deep but not at the cost of shadow detail. This looks very good on Blu-ray.

    The only audio option for the movie is a French language LPCM Mono track, there are no alternate language options provided though removable subtitles are offered up in English only. Sarde’s score benefits from the lossless audio more than anything else in the mix. Dialogue is properly balanced but not particularly robust while the track remains free of any hiss or distortion related problems. This isn’t a fancy mix but it doesn’t need to be – what’s here seems perfectly authentic and it suits the movie well enough.

    The extras on the disc start off with select scene audio commentary by Italian film scholar Pasquale Iannone who speaks over about twenty-seven minutes’ worth of the picture about its origins and its worth. This is a good mix of historical based discussion and critical interpretation and it does go a good way towards making the case for just what exactly Marco Ferreri was going for with this oddly compelling project.

    From there, we move on to the video extras starting with The Farcical Movie which is a twenty-seven minute long French television profile of director Marco Ferreri made in 1975. Here Ferreri talks about his different influences from both in and outside of the film world (it won’t shock anyone to hear him discuss Bunuel!), his techniques as a filmmaker and his thoughts on various projects he was involved with up to the point where this special was made. There’s also an eleven minute piece that is made up of behind-the-scenes footage shot during the making of La Grande Bouffe. Included in this segment are some vintage interviews not only with Ferrari but also with his leading men Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Ugo Tognazzi and Philippe Noiret. More interviews are found in the five minutes of extracts from the French television series Couleurs autour d'un festival. We also get an interesting visual essay on the film with Iannone that complements his commentary quite nicely as well as some great vintage news report from the film’s appearance at the Cannes Film Festival where it caused no shortage of controversy and where Ferreri delivered an interesting press conference about the picture.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc itself are the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release a DVD version is also included inside the clear keepcase containing supplements identical to those found on the Blu-ray disc. Arrow has also done a nice job with the packaging here, as they typically do, by including a nice reversible cover sleeve with the film’s original poster artwork on one side and a newly commissioned piece by Gilles Vranckx on the reverse.

    On top of that, the two discs come packaged with a nicely printed full color insert booklet that contains a newly commissioned essay on the film written by Johnny Mains that is nicely illustrated with a great selection of archival stills and poster art pieces.

    The Final Word:

    La Grande Bouffe is a very unorthodox film, a black comedy that gets under your skin and sticks with you whether you want it to or not. It is also a very interesting film, a well-acted picture that is both funny and unsettling at the same time that would seem to have much to say about far some will go to fulfill their passion when left to their own devices. Arrow’s Blu-ray is a good one, offering up the film in excellent condition with good audio and a very nice selection of supplements. Great packaging and liner notes too. Not for all tastes but those with an interesting in the stranger side of arthouse cinema should definitely appreciate not just the film, but the entire package presented here.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. George Barry's Avatar
      George Barry -
      One of my favorite films. Years & years ago, a friend and I saw this at the theater. We both worked up an enormous appetite watching it and went out for a big dinner immediately after the show.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Ha, I didn't want anything to do with food after watching it. REALLY dug the movie though. It certainly leaves an impression.
    1. Scyther's Avatar
      Scyther -
      I went into this one thinking I'd love it-the black comedy and the absurdity of it all-but I really couldn't stand it. Super let down.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      I haven't seen this since the days of VHS and still need to pick up the Arrow BD (it's near the top of my 'to buy' list). Nice review, Ian: it's whetted my appetite, you might say, to watch the film again. (Geddit? Geddit?) {Cue wheezing laughter}
    1. Clive Smith's Avatar
      Clive Smith -