Four friends who are well placed in the elite or newly blooming rich have decided that after having lived such lives of excess and debauchery, the only way to see out their final days fittingly is by suicide by food. The plan is for them to eat themselves to death over the course of a weekend but with the added bonus of conducting an orgy of food, drink and sex to take with them. However before they do eat their way to oblivion they have to find some prostitutes for appitites of a more carnal nature and have to plan the menu for the meals that will see them over. Then once they have cleared the mansion of unwanted extras, they can let the games begin!
It would be simple of me to say that this film was in the vein of works like the amazing and deeply disturbing Pasolini film Salo. That film was in my own opinion a very direct and scathing attack on the capitalist, consumerist bourgeois that were growing during the 1960s and 1970s in Italy. Pasolini was an open and very vocal Marxist, which lead him to express with such force his belief in the destructive nature of capitalism. By using the allogory of the fascist regime and its atrocity in the region of Salo (not a historical event), he captured the horror of the all consuming desire of money and capitalism. La Grande Bouffe in truth is along the same lines but instead takes the focus from actions that affect everyone else in society and turns it to reflect actions that affect the bourgeois.
Marco Ferreri was a director and provocateur who took on issues with a fist and forced the audience to take notice of his opinions and his vision. This film is his lasting legacy and in many respects his most powerful work. By using the setting of a great meal and having men consuming all that is fine and lovely, we are treated to the crass, perverse and mashocistic realms that this leads people down. Food is the natural part of this discourse but once corrupted by the excess of over consumption it becomes as degreding as the sexul desire. The food and the women have been bought along almost as if they are objects to live inside the world of excess and are to be simply consumed and not considered. We the audience do not reveal in this over indulgence because of this action, instead we sit and loathe the men doing it and the meals become like the vulgar acts of monsters. This is enhanced by the place, which looks like a castle that has fallen apart and not been well restructed with rooms that are almost clattered with antique rubbish. These are all held as well in a semi real, semi surreal worlds that places us inside the minds of the monsters as they adorn everything and turn it into money relatable objects.
For me La Grande Bouffe still retains most of its power and when watched now can be seen to be just as forceful in its exploration of the agressive capitalist ideal that is in the fore today. It uses very harsh metaphors and even harsher language to get its point across but it does this in a way that says to its audience, I know what you know about the world. It is not a fun ride and easy watch however and for many of the younger or less versed film goer it could prove a chore. It is inaccessible and makes no bones about wanting it any other way. I went along after not seeing it for almost 10 years and was left happy but also less impressed. I have seen much of the Italian new wave political films and this is not the best. I would say to the reader at this point you have to make the decision. Do you want a film that makes you have to reflect? Have you already seen films like Salo and hated them? Do you care about the idea of capitalism and corrosion of hope? If you answered no to any of these questions, then don’t watch. If you answered yes, then go now before it is too late…