Coming to blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Video on August 18th is Marco Ferreri’s surreal, ‘La Grande Bouffe,’ which follows four friends: Marcello, the pilot playboy, Michel, the hotshot news reporter or producer, Philippe, the judge, and Ugo, the chef, as the hole up in a rustic French villa owned by Philippe’s family for generations for an unforgettable weekend.
‘La Grande Bouffe’ starts out rather cryptically: The four main characters are making odd arrangements with family or loved ones. Ugo packs his many famous knives and all of his recipes to inquisitions from his staff. Michel gives his apartment key to his daughter and says he is going on assignment. Marcello takes a last look at his airplane and, seemingly above hard work, has his crew unload a large wheel of parmesan cheese amongst other foods. Philippe lies to his lifelong time nanny and says he is going to a conference. She calls him a liar and insists he is going to brothels. He states he’s given her access to his bank account and this only confuses her further.
Marcello, Michel, Philippe, and Ugo arrive together at the villa and begin to get settled in, ingesting some light snacks of blood sausage and cheese. Outside, a massive delivery of meats, such as wild boar, lamb, live geese and chickens arrives, and Marcello exclaims, “Let the festivities commence!” That night, they eat oysters, and feast their eyes on erotic photos of women depicting various pieces of art projected on a large screen.
The next morning, Ugo wakes up Philippe in the early morning to start getting meals prepared. Marcello visits Michel in his room, which is a sort of makeshift dance studio, as Michel is in a leotard and doing ballet stretches. Marcello brings up the notion of getting prostitutes for the momentous weekend. Later, a class of young children arrive for a tour of the villa with their teacher, Miss Andrea, and Philippe is smitten right away. Each of the men take a few of the children to various parts of the grounds and show them around. The men decide to throw a party and invite Miss Andrea. Later that evening, the prostitutes and Miss Andrea arrive and they all start eating. Soon, Philppe finds that Miss Andrea has an appetite for more than just food, and promptly proposes marriage. The prostitutes indulge for awhile, but one by one, they get sick of all of the eating and leave. They ask Andrea to leave with them, but she refuses with a look of pleasure.
Over the next couple days, the men succumb to the food: Michel gets so full, that he needs to be farted, rather than burped, Marcello can’t get an erection, Philippe, who is regarded as very smart, has trouble forming thoughts. *At this point, I posit to you a question, dear reader: What do you get when you have multiple people constantly eating, in a large house with apparently only one toilet? You get my favorite scene.
Marcello decides that he doesn’t want to die and gets in his car in the middle of a snow storm and leaves. Michel wakes up to find Marcello frozen to death in the Bugatti convertible. Philppe, Michel, Ugo and Andrea, carry him inside and stand him up in the freezer, which looks hilarious by the way, so he won’t stink up the place, but presumably so that he can still watch the festivities. Undeterred, Michel, Philippe, Ugo, and Andrea continue to feast until the end.
Arrow once again does not disappoint with the 2K transfer from the original negative and a stockpot full of extras. I especially enjoyed the behind the scenes feature and the Cannes interview in which Ferreri goes off on someone asking a stupid question.
‘La Grande Bouffe’ is a somewhat nauseating enigma: It is hedonism at its worst, or best, if you prefer with their graphic over indulgence on food and flesh, and after a while, the sight of Marcello, Philippe, Michel, and Ugo constantly eating makes one not want to eat, as the sounds of chewing start to really get to you. All of the food was prepared by some of the best chefs in France and was beautifully presented.
Not only is ‘La Grande Bouffe’ hedonistic, it is voyeuristic in that we have watch these men gorge themselves to death as a fly on the wall, but there is nothing we can do to stop them, as we are just the fly there to eat and lay eggs in the soon to be rotted leftovers.
It is unclear on why they wanted to eat themselves to death, as no true motive was given; It just appears that it was the right time in their lives. It was mentioned at one point by Michel, I believe, that all people die at some point, and some die rather painful deaths, so they might as well go out on their own terms and enjoy it, but planteration seems just as painful.
Even though this is supposed to be farcical, I found it ultimately depressing because, even though some of the deaths were presented humorously, they were just so…determined…to…die. However, I did enjoy the three-fold meaning of ‘La Grande Bouffe:’ the men feasted on food and women, Andrea feasted on the men and food, and the dogs feasted on the final meat delivery. Everybody…eats…
Put on your bibs, find your loosest sweatpants, and make sure the toilet is unclogged because, you are about to gorge on ‘La Grande Bouffe.’ Pre-order here.
- Brand new 2K restoration of the original camera negative
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
- Original French audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Newly translated English subtitles
- The Farcical Movie – A French television profile of Marco Ferreri from 1975 in which the director discusses, among other things, the influence of Tex Avery, Luis Buñuel and Tod Browning’s Freaks
- Behind-the-scenes footage of the making of La Grande bouffe, containing interviews with Ferrari and actors Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Ugo Tognazzi and Philippe Noiret
- Extracts from the television series Couleurs autour d’un festival featuring interviews with the cast and crew recorded during the Cannes Film Festival
- A visual essay on the film with by Italian film scholar Pasquale Iannone
- Select scene audio commentary by Iannone
- News report from the Cannes Film Festival where La Grande bouffe caused a controversial stir, including Ferreri at the press conference
- Original Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
- Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Johnny Mains, illustrated with original archive stills and posters