La Grande Bouffe (1973) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Scoop's notes:

Marco Ferreri is the director of this film, and he was one of the great countercultural figures of the cultural revolution in the late 60's and early 70's. He made such iconoclastic films as Bye-Bye Monkey (In which Depardieu talks with a whistle, has a pet chimp who is eaten by rats, and makes love to ancient Geraldine Page), and Tales of Ordinary Madness (a Charles Bukowski story in which Ben Gazzara plays an alcoholic writer who has relations with an underage girl, women who never bathe, fat women, you name it -- and some of the scenes are quite explicit).

Anyway, this is Ferreri's masterpiece, I guess, and he's up to his usual strange tricks here in this story of four successful middle aged men who come together to commit suicide by overeating. Of course, before they get near death, there is plenty of farting and shitting. I know it sounds like it should star Charlie Sheen and Dom Deluise, but it isn't a grade-z gross-out comedy. It's a serious arthouse piece starring Marcello Mastroianni and other distinguished performers. It's not my concept of a masterpiece, but if you're into films you almost have to see it for the shock value alone.


Andrea Ferreol shows everything, as does Solange Blondeau as one of the hookers. Monique Chaumette, as another hooker, shows breasts, wearing only a G-string. 

Tuna's comments:

Four men (a judge, a master chef, a TV personality, and an airplane pilot), decide to hole up for the weekend in a Paris estate belonging to one of them, and eat themselves to death. It becomes obvious to them after the first night that they will need a little female companionship, so they import a few whores. When some school kids ask to see a famous tree on the grounds, they also meet their teacher (Andrea Ferreol), and invite her to dinner. She accepts, and ends up staying for the duration. The prostitutes eat themselves sick, get bored, and leave. Andrea ends up sleeping in a big bed with all of the men, and ultimately decides to take care of all of them until they accomplish their goal or give up. The men all drop, one after another, after noisy and messy intestinal problems. The airplane pilot is the randiest of the bunch, and the first to go. (He freezes to death in the front seat of a Bugatti in a snow storm.)

La Grande Bouffe is probably the most famous film directed by the arty, eccentric Marco Ferreri, having earned that distinction with the controversy it generated at Cannes, where it won the FIPRESCI Prize, and was nominated for a Golden Palm. Critics were sharply divided on the film's merits. Those who find it disgusting and without merit have ample reason for that view. The story is, quite honestly, rather gross, and the script gives none of the men any motivation to commit suicide, so it seems incongruous and incredible that 4 successful people -- all friends -- should decide to eat themselves to death together.

On the other hand, those who praise the film have justification as well.  One theory is that this film symbolizes the demise of one type of French masculine figure, and that the film is highly irreverent and disrespectful of French society and institutions.

The literary allusions are obscure and seem to be lost in the translation. Perhaps they make it an intelligent film for those who speak French, but my take was somewhat different. It is definitely bathroom humor, but with an all-star cast, including Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret and Ugo Tognazzi. Several points make the film worthy, in my opinion. The acting is flawless, the set is intricate and the images will be with me for a long time. The best element is Andrea, a fascinating character who made the film for me. She has appetites, both sexual and gastronomic, that far surpass any of the men, but is not self-destructive. She is the only one of the bunch that is giving by nature. The hookers and the men are all self-serving. Maybe the message is that you have to give great pleasure to experience great pleasure.

La Grande Bouffe DVD aka Blow-Out Widescreen (1973)

It is now available from on a Widescreen all region PAL. It is in the original French, with optional English subtitles, and includes a 45 minute short subject in English about the director. Previous versions were 4/3 ratio, and are now out of print and expensive when you can find them.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 2.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it a near-classic 7.1
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. A cult classic, but also a love-it-or-hate-it kind of film.

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