Still from 1973's "Le Grande Bouffe."

Le Grande Bouffe  

May 17, 2018


Marco Ferreri



Marcello Mastroianni

Michel Piccoli

Ugo Tognazzi

Philippe Noiret

Andréa Ferréol

Florence Gioretti









2 Hrs., 10 Mins.

egend has it that, after seeing Le Grande Bouffe (1973) for the first time, the actress Catherine Deneuve would not speak to its star/her lover Marcello Mastroianni for more than a week. Was this because the movie is so expressly grotesque? Or was this because the feature tries so desperately to be both edgy and meaningful by way of Buñuel but really just gets off on its unconvincingly conceived “big ideas,” and she thought it was an intellectually mastubatory embarrassment with which she'd rather not be associated? Decide for yourself. Or don’t, since there are so many more enjoyable things to do than watch, or think about, Le Grande Bouffe.


In it, four friends — the man-child magistrate Philippe (Philippe Noiret), the articulate chef Ugo (Ugo Tognazzi), the womanizing pilot Marcello (Mastroianni), and the unsatisfied TV producer Michel (Michel Piccoli) — mutually conclude they’ve had enough of their lives and that they’re going to end it all by eating themselves to death.


Sounds hyperbolic, but these dolts are serious. They set up shop in one of Philippe’s plush, unused villas in the country, and go about unendingly devouring food either made on the spot or organized to be delivered. They surmise the binge’ll last just a few days before they resemble the “gluttony” victim in 1995’s Se7en. To make their long-in-the-making deaths more pleasant, they additionally hire prostitutes to decorate the atmosphere, keeping their loins as contented as their ever-bulging tummies.


This is all supposed to be some sort of commentary aimed at the profligacy of the bourgeoisie. It "comically" wonders aloud what would happen if the more narcissistic members of the really-high-up upper class purposefully decided to let their hedonist tendencies destroy them.


Trouble is is that Le Grande Bouffe, like most of its writer and director Marco Ferreri’s other Deep Movies™ usually are, is not particularly funny or insightful — just cloddish, vulgar, and contemptuous. The characters are more insufferable. Normally I’d wonder why this respectable ensemble was interested in such a film, but most of the actors involved worked with Ferreri previously. He must be a delight behind the scenes.


Catherine Deneuve has been wrong about a lot of things — particular her recent denouncement of the #MeToo movement — but in the case of Le Grande Bouffe, she was on the money. This is a wasteful, unfunny, insulting joke of a movie that thinks we’ll excuse its grotesqueries because, hey, some of its underlying missives are things Voltaire might’ve agreed with way back when. But so what? D