by Jason Suzuki
Four men set off to a weekend getaway; Marcello Mastroianni, Philippe Noiret, Michel Piccoli, and Ugo Tognazzi all playing characters of the same names have decided to permanently exit their lives of pilot, magistrate, TV personality, and chef through eating themselves to death. Salo and Leaving Las Vegas comes to mind but this film is a beast of its own as these men set out to do what they came there to do, having trucks filled with meats, vegetables, and other essential ingredients unloaded off at the property where every room is an exercise in consumerism of a grotesque exaggeration that only these bourgeois could afford. Of course food won’t be enough for the weekend and eventually a group of prostitutes are invited as well as a local school teacher Andrea (Andrea Ferreol). The character of Andrea introduces one of the more interesting elements to a film already full of them. From here food and sex become linked, with death eventually coming in to make it a threesome.
The film has the entertainingly debauched going-ons of the man’s getaway weekend narrative, it also has the social criticism of Salo that is amazingly both in your face and somewhat thanks to the farce and commitment to the guys’ culinary endeavor.
The film was restored by Arrow for this release in 2K and is housed on a dual-layer blu-ray. The lossless soundtrack is sparse, all the better to hear the wonderful sounds of congestion, but this restoration really benefits the visuals of the film comprised of many long shots where we get a few focal points of action happening most of the time all surrounded by the dense setting of a home with extravagance in all corners.
As usual Arrow gets closer and closer to replacing Criterion as the go to name you drop when you describe a wealth of special features. We have a television profile on the director, behind the scenes footage, and interviews with cast and crew at the Cannes film festival (where supposedly Ingrid Bergman, head of the jury that year at Cannes, got sick while watching, something I completely understand). The real star of these extras is film scholar Pasquale Iannone who provides a visual essay on Ferreri and his career as well as select scene commentary that focuses more on the leads actors of Le Grande Bouffe. These put all together is how Iannone gives a great context to the film as well as a great place to find other titles to seek after watching Le Grande Bouffe. Iannone knows what he’s talking about and isolates consistent threads in Fererri’s work: bourgeois alienation, angst, eccentric obsessions, the grotesque, and humor that is extremely dark. While not a full length commentary, Iannone provides a lot of information in the 30 minutes he covers.
This release for me was a great discovery and epitomizes the excitement I have for the titles Arrow Video is releasing. The film is lovingly presented and the extras give you the context to go into the film a little more informed but also serve to help you further appreciate the film. Le Grande Bouffe is along with The Look of Silence two films seen recently that I think of every day, almost haunting me if it weren’t for the fact that they commit to their ideas so strongly and in such a forward thinking and bold way. I highly recommend Ferreri’s film and Arrow’s release of it and hope one day there will be a screening that comes with a 12 course meal.
Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.