DVD: La Grande Bouffe

LaGrandeBouffeDVDSTUDIO: Arrow Films | DIRECTOR: Marco Ferreri | STARS: Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, Ugo Tognazzi, Andrea Ferreol
RELEASE DATE: 8/18/15 | PRICE: Dual format DVD & Blu-ray $39.95
BONUSES: French television profile of Marco Ferreri from 1975; cast and crew interviews recorded during the Cannes Film Festival; visual essay by film scholar Pasquale Iannone; Ferreri at Cannes press conference; audio commentary by Iannone
SPECS: NR | 130 min. | Foreign language comedy | 1.66:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital mono, Dolby Digital stereo | French and Italian with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video | Overall


A brilliant and timeless act of provocation, La Grande Bouffe is the best known film by the cinema’s foremost chronicler of surreally obsessive behavior, Marco Ferreri. The film was the subject of much controversy when it came out in 1973. It is not as shocking today, but it is still a disturbing and pungent commentary on consumer culture.

The film’s plot centers around a feast in a country mansion devised by four jaded bourgeois gentlemen. The quartet plan to eat themselves to death in grand style, consuming gourmet food in enormous quantities and sharing their beds with prostitutes (for the Roman “bacchanal” effect).

While the film’s comedy is pitch black, it is also delightfully vulgar since the four gentlemen didn’t quite factor in the amount of gas, stomach trouble and visits to the toilet that eating oneself to death entail. The wonderful thing about this aspect is that Ferreri’s leads are four impeccably suave and well-groomed European gentlemen — Marcello Mastroianni (La Dolce Vita), Michel Piccoli (Belle de Jour), Philippe Noiret (Cinema Paradiso) and Ugo Tognazzi (La Cage aux Folles) — who wind up executing the toilet jokes.

The film has been released twice before on disc and also as part of an eight-disc Ferreri box set [full disclosure: a TV interview with Ferreri by this reviewer was included in the last-mentioned]. The Arrow release has been remastered for Blu-ray, but is a must-have even for those who own the earlier releases because of the superb trove of extras.

The boys are back in La Grande Bouffe

The boys are back in La Grande Bouffe

Film historian Pasquale Iannone offers a verbal history of Ferreri’s life and career up until Grande Bouffe in a new video supplement shot for this release. He dispenses much information, but perhaps the best anecdote is that Ingrid Bergman (Autumn Sonata), who was president of the Cannes jury in ’73, was made sick to her stomach by the film.

Iannone also provides audio commentary for select scenes. He discusses the film’s style and its stars, noting that Tognazzi was not just playing an epicure in the film, he in fact wrote several cookbooks in his later years.

The most engaging extras, however, are the vintage items. A TV segment on the making of the film focuses on the food that the cast ate in the film. We also learn that Ferreri encouraged his actors to improvise dialogue and was also beloved by his stars — Mastroianni calls the head quartet here (three of whom worked quite a lot with Ferreri) the filmmaker’s “mistresses.”

A short shard from the official Cannes press conference in ’73 finds the portly, bearded Ferreri yelling at a reporter that Bouffe is not a political film, its critique of consumer society was instead intended as an “ecological” parable (one gets the impression Il Signor Marco is being contrarian on purpose).

A TV interview with Ferreri and three of his four stars finds Piccoli and Noiret ready to defend the film from critics who accused it of being overly vulgar. They note that the picture — which is caustic on purpose — is primarily about “affection” and “tenderness.” The interviewer has other interests, though, as he asks if the cast could hum the theme song and how the film’s fart noises were created. (“Everyone farts!” responds Piccoli sarcastically, noting that the sounds were sound effects.)

The most delightful supplement is a French TV episode in which Ferreri is asked to speak about comedy in film. As if to turn the show’s premise on its head, three somewhat dark and dire clips from Ferreri’s own work are shown. As for his favorites by other filmmakers, Ferreri cites Tod Browning’s Freaks and emphasizes that Luis Bunuel’s work is very important to him (although he vehemently denies that his films are like Bunuel’s).

He also singles out a farce by French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Mocky and, quite surprisingly, a wonderfully violent cartoon by Tex Avery. The disparity of his choices is fascinating, but each one lends a new light to the impulses that drove him to make Bouffe and his other outrageous personal and political (or should that be “ecological”?) allegories.


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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”