successful middle-aged men Marcello, a pilot, Michel, a
television executive, Ugo, a chef; and, Philippe, a judge go
to Philippe's villa to eat themselves to death. After the
first night, Marcello insists that women should join them.
Three prostitutes make it through a day or two; Andrea, a
local school teacher, stays to the end. The villa, the food,
and a Bugati roadster are essential props.
Grande Bouffe is an almost archetypally European movie - a
Franco-Italian co-production, directed by a noted auteur,
Marco Ferreri, and starring arguably the three greatest of all
European actors, Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli and
Phillipe Noiret. It features allusions to philosophy, art
history and literature, and is confined, Bunuel-like, to the
single set of a decaying town mansion. It is also about four
middle-aged men stuffing themselves to death, blocking toilets
until they messily explode, and, er, breaking wind.
Ferreri treats his theme of excess - food, sex, self-pity -
with an almost Oriental restraint, matching lengthy, static
long shots so dense with detail and so darkly lit that it's
often difficult to make anything out, to extreme close-ups,
pitilessly exposing yet also strangely moving: a bit like Ozu
We gradually learn that they have come here to die, but
Marcello is unable to continue without sex, so they hire some
prostitutes, as well as inviting a local, seemingly innocent,
teacher, who is soon revealed to have appetites equal to any
of the men. And so the men eat. And eat. And eat. They
sometimes have sex, watch antique 'erotic' slides, drive cars,
get sick. But mostly they eat. They even have competitions to
see who can eat the fastest.
This, ironically, does not sound very appetising for the
viewer. There is no narrative drive for instance - any
conflict possibly brought by the pure, innocent Andrea, a
symbol of life in an atmosphere of decay, to whom Phillipe
proposes marriage, are quickly dashed by her own taste for
depravity. The men decide to die, and we watch them do it. The
film begins with a methodical introduction to all four
characters, and ends as methodically picking each one off.
This neo-Sadean orgy - with its comic counterpart in
Terry Jones's exploding fat diner in Monty Python's THE
MEANING OF LIFE - marks the ne plus ultra of the cinema
of disgust, a metaphysical rejection of the world translated
into a relentless, nauseating spectacle of self-destruction.