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La Grande Bouffe Review

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With little motive four middle aged men decide to hole themselves up in one of their mansions and eat themselves to death. One of the men insists on bringing hookers with them but when the girls decline the offer, it is left to the housekeeper to join the men in their dying wish.

★★★★

Marcello Mastroianni could never be accused of playing it safe. Fresh from playing the lead in Jacques Demy's eccentric gender satire, A Slightly Pregnant Man, he embarked on the fourth of his seven collaborations with Marco Ferreri, which foregrounded bodily functions in order to denounce the suicidal folly of contemporary society. The film divided audiences from its premiere at Cannes, where punch-ups broke out among the assembled critics and violence continued to attend its long run in Paris. It was even said that Mastroianni's then-lover, Catherine Deneuve, was so appalled by the picture that she didn't speak to him for a week.

This is certainly a film with something to offend everyone. Its bleak, bawdy humour is anything but subtle, with each character carefully designed to reflect what Ferreri considered to be modern evils - the injustice perpetuated by the corrupt judicial system; the cultural inanity encouraged by television; the greed of the developed world when much of the planet was starving; and the restless urge to travel, both to escape from domestic reality and to bring about a global village that could be more easily conquered and exploited. No wonder Pier Paolo Pasolini was inspired by the erupting bottoms and toilets to create his own savagely scatalogical assault on the Fascist mentality in Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom.

 The ensemble performances are truly remarkable and whether they're world-wearily cursing their lots or engaging in food fights, Mastroianni, Piccoli, Noiret and Tognazzi abandon their egos and place implicit trust in Ferreri's audacious design. Yet, the impious Mastroianni inevitably stands out, as his controlling sensuality continuously overcomes his despondency and he fetishises over the statue in the garden and the Bugatti motor in the garage before indulging himself with both the prostitute and the visiting school teacher. Indeed, it's with something approaching relief that his comrades bundle his corpse into the fridge to resume their funereal repast in peace.

Managing to shock but without so much as hinting at sex and violence, La Grande Bouffe succeeds with the help of a strong cast that includes a well cast Mastroianni who plays the part with suitable extravagance and Ferreol giving strong support as the hou

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