Blu-Ray Review: La Grande Bouffe

La Grande Bouffe AV017Despite its outrageous excess in nearly every scene, you may find yourself quite famished after watching Marco Ferreri’s disturbing comedy La Grand Bouffe. The potent stew of food, sex, madness and death the four principals undertake during the film’s 130 minutes isn’t for all tastes and in fact, might even be offensive to more sensitive eyeballs and stomachs. Of course, that’s exactly the intent of this 1973 endurance test.

Watching Marcello (Mastroianni), Michel (Piccoli), Ugo (Tonazzi), and Philippe (Noiret) eat themselves to death over the course of the film isn’t a pretty sight. But this is one of those absurd, perverse masterpieces that doesn’t need any pompous over-analysis. The four friends decide to meet their maker because each of their lives has reached a point of no return and they’re fed up enough to get fed up to the point they flee this mortal coil. So what are four wealthy and seemingly sane men to do but lock themselves away in a lovely mansion and order up a massive supply of food they then cook and eat of more than humanly possible?

If you said “have an orgy!”, give your self a pat on the back with a hand greasy from chicken fat and put this Arrow Video release on your want list. Yet again, it’s one of those great 2K restoration jobs stuffed to the gills with bonus features. Expensively prepared dishes, exploding toilets, a beautiful blue Bugatti and lots of exposed flesh all await your soon to be engorged eyeballs, is all I’ll say…

As the men prepare for their hedonistic descent, they meet Andréa (Andréa Ferréol), a pretty, plus-sized teacher who brings her class by to visit the mansion’s garden in order to see a famous tree. She gets an invite to dinner that evening and isn’t even fazed by the wild events at the table. In fact, she’s a gal who can take care of herself to the point that she’s the sole woman left standing. The ladies of the evening split but she sticks around and is just as much of a dynamo on every level, participating in some eye-popping activities. Upon its initial release, the film caused quite a ruckus thanks to its completely amoral tone and plenty of crass humor revolving around all sorts of bodily functions. If you think the fart joke on film is the creation of an easily corruptible 1990’s mentality in Hollywood, you’d be dead wrong as the gassy humor here goes above and beyond any call you’d expect.

The four men react to Andréa in expected and unexpected ways and she ends up as the center of attention and the film’s amoral center. As the men expire one by one, the film spirals into black comedy to the point that the final death comes in the form of a cake shaped like a pair of breasts. The actual ending of the film takes place a few minutes later and makes for quite a bizarre sight, but I’ll let you see that for yourself. As the four main actors and Ferréol play characters using their actual first names, it’s possible that some viewers may feel it tricky to distance the players from other parts they’ve played. But it’s a nice gimmick that for me, garnered a few chuckles when I went and later watched a few films each of the male actors was in.

Arrow Video gets another excellent 2K restoration out on the Blu-Ray and as noted, there are some fine special features here, albeit mostly archive footage from foreign TV broadcasts around the around times the film was made and premiered. There’s a behind the scenes feature that has interviews with the director and four principals, a pair of pieces centering around the Cannes Film Festival reaction to the film, and a TV profile of Ferreri where he notes his influences for the film. New content includes film scholar Pasquale Iannone commenting on selected scenes as well as providing an entertaining “visual essay” about the film.

A trailer, reversible cover art sleeve and collectible booklet complete the set, but it would have been wonderful to see some recipes for some of the more ornate dishes presented and eaten in the film. As noted at the beginning of this review, if you can stomach the nasty bits, you may want to have a feast of your own when all is said and done. Granted, you’ll want to make maybe one dish at a time or perhaps three at most lest you end up stored upright or sitting in a freezer somewhere.

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