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Image Entertainment presents
La Grande bouffe (1973)

"I'm afraid Ugo is a trifle sick."
- Philippe (Philippe Noiret)

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: June 27, 2000

Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, Ugo Tognazzi
Other Stars: Andréa Ferréol
Director: Marco Ferreri

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: NC-17 for (nudity, sexual situations)
Run Time: 02h:10m:00s
Release Date: May 23, 2000
UPC: 014381477924
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB-B- D

DVD Review

La Grande bouffe defies definition on every level. The title has no English equivalent, something like "Puff Out" or "Blow-out", neither of which is quite right. On the box they try "The Big Feast", which, although more appropriate, takes great liberties. It is a grand buffet of a story, with everything from sentimentality to scatological suicide with cooling intermezzos of laughter along the way.

Four middle-aged men—Ugo (Tognazzi), a master chef, Michel (Piccoli) works in television, Marcello (Mastrioanni) a pilot and Philippe (Noiret) a judge—travel to Philippe's villa in a pact to commit suicide by eating. Trés français, non? Truckloads of food arrive and the stage is set for a story that is like The Big Chill on emetics.

The real decadence comes to fore the next day when Marcello, already antsy, wants to get laid, so they arrange for 3 prostitutes to join them. A schoolteacher (Ferréol) comes by with her class (there is a famous tree in the yard) and Philippe, a bit doe-eyed, invites her to dinner as well. The next day or so is something that I can only describe as a "dirty movie", with nudity, sex and food, food, food. As one of the women notes, "Why do you eat if you're not hungry? It's ridiculous." As the indulgence continues it begins to take its toll. One by one the women get sick and leave—except Andrea, the schoolteacher, who stays until the bitter end.

This was a European all-star cast in 1973, and trying to imagine this film having been made in the U.S. with an equivalent cast —say, Paul Newman, Jack Lemmon, Marlon Brando and, oh, I don't know—Peter O'Toole?—flatulating and vomiting their way to death seems ludicrous. But while scandalizing and shocking audiences then as now, La Grande bouffe was Marco Ferreri's greatest international success, earning the International Critic's Award at Cannes.

The performances are striking from these old friends, but Andréa Ferréol steals the show as the softig schoolmarm, a large woman with a large appetite bringing warmth and humanity to this morbidly humorous extravaganza. I noted that she appears in 4 of the last 5 films I have seen—A Zed and two Noughts, The Last Metro, One Hundred and One Nights and this one—and her performance is always centered and perfect. Brava! to this ever-supporting treasure.

Not a fan of "gross-out" movies, I somehow saw this through to the end. The performances make scenes like the "universal deluge" bearable—and when all was said and done I had a strange hankering for créme de marrons.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full screen transfer is a bit soft and grainy, but there is no bleeding and no noted edge enhancements. I did notice dust here and there, but it was otherwise clean. Interior shadows are soft, but the close-ups are well contrasted. Thoroughly watchable.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The French mono transfer is clear and audible. Some of the incidental music is a bit raspy but is well-defined and does not overrun the dialogue. Pleasantly, there was no hiss, surprising given the age and limitations of the source material.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Subtitles
Extras Review: The chapters are well-spaced but all too few. The menu is well designed, but as there are no real inclusions it is sadly spare. The subtitles are spare as well—this is one of those annoying translations where whole sentences are omitted from the screen.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

This is a wild, over-the-top affair that is surely not suitable for every one. But if you are hungry for a stellar black comedy, this one groans, "Abondanza!"


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