Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 19th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1973
Director: Marco Ferreri
Writers: Marco Ferreri, Rafael Azcona, Francis Blanche
Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, Ugo Tognazzi, Andréa Ferréol
BluRay released: August 17th, 2015 (UK) / August 18th, 2015 (USA)
Approximate running times: 130 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: LPCM Mono French
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B / Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £15.99 (UK)
Synopsis: Four friends who are unhappy with their lives get together for one last weekend of debauchery and gluttony.
La Grande Bouffe was co-written and directed by Marco Ferreri whose other notable films include, The Ape Woman, Dillinger is Dead and Tales of Ordinary Madness. Key collaborators on La Grande Bouffe include, cinematographer Mario Vulpiani (The Grand Duel, How to Kill a Judge), composer Philippe Sarde (The Tenant, Tess) and screenwriter Rafael Azcona (Mafioso, Belle Epoque).
Whether they were making art house cinema or genre cinema for the masses, the majority of Marco Ferreri’s contemporaries are more well known then his is outside of his homeland of Italy. And though his reputation as a filmmaker has grown in recent years, there is one thing that remains the same, most perspective viewers find his cinema difficult to digest.
From a narrative stand point La Gander Bouffe keeps things fairly simple. Each of the main characters are given brief introductions to flesh out their back-stories before they arrive at this film’s main location. From there the remainder of the film takes place in one location. And for a film that is driven by performances and the words that the characters are saying, this film does a remarkable job remaining engaging and thought provoking throughout its entire duration.
When watching cinema the most common route is to focus on what is on the surface, what is in your direct path of sight. With the most common mistake that most viewers make while watching this film is that they tend to focus too much on the grotesque elements of the plot. While those who dig deeper into what lays beyond this film’s provocative surface will discover a film that rich with subtext.
One man’s comedy, in another man’s trash. With far too often comedy can be hit or miss and when it comes to satire it is even harder to consistently to delivers the goods. And when it comes to this films use of humor, it is so much more than one liners. The strength of comedy on display in this film lays within the psychical movements of the actors and how they use the objects around them.
The glue that keeps this delirious satire together is its exceptional cast who all deliver extraordinary performances. And the cast includes, Ugo Tognazzi (Barbarella, Come Have Coffee with Us) in the role of Ugo, his is a chef. Up next is Philippe Noiret (Cinema Paradiso) in the role of Philippe, he is a magistrate. Then there is Marcello Mastroianni (8 1/2, What?) in the role of Marcello, he is an airline pilot. Followed by Michel Piccoli (Belle de Jour, Danger: Diabolik) in the role of Michel, he is a television producer. And last but most definitely not least is Andréa Ferréol (Tin Drum) in the role of Andréa, she is a school teacher.
Of course each of these characters are given specific traits which drive their personalities. Ugo is the most suicidal of the lot and a recent misunderstanding with his wife appears to be the event which sent his current melancholy into motion. Philippe’s troubles stem back to childhood and his nanny who has remained with him after all these years. She is an overbearing presence who has kept all other women out of his life. Marcello is a womanizer who is now faced with the reality that he has become impotent. Michel is an emasculated divorce who has grown tired of his boring life. Andréa is buxom young woman who quickly finds herself at home with the other four main characters.
Ultimately La Grande Bouffe is a truly unique cinema experience that perfectly captures the essence of hedonism.
La Grande Bouffe comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand new 2k transfer was created from the film’s original negative and from there extensive restoration work was done in regards to removing print damage and debris. Additional work was also done on image stability and density fluctuation. Needless to the say, when compared to all previous home video releases this new transfer blows they all away and then some. Colors are nicely saturated, black and contrast levels are consistently strong and details always look crisp. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression and there is a healthy layer of grain throughout.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in French. Just like the transfer, this audio mix has also has extensive work done to it. And the end result sounds fantastic as dialog always clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include a news report from the Cannes Film Festival (1 minute 42 seconds, in French with English subtitles), a French television profile of Marco Ferreri from 1975 titled ‘The Farcical Movie’ (27 minutes 9 seconds, in French with English subtitles), ‘Behind the Scenes’ footage that originally aired as part of an episode of Pour le Cinema (11 minutes 3 seconds, in French with English subtitles), ‘Colors around a Festival’ extracts from the television series Couleurs autour d’un festival (4 minutes 28 seconds, in French with English subtitles), a visual essay with Italian film scholar Pasquale Iannone titled ‘Forming Ferreri’ (18 minutes 9 seconds) and select scene audio commentary with Pasquale Iannone.
Topics discussed in the extra titled ‘‘The Farcical Movie’ include, the importance of humor and how it can be used to say things one would not normally be able to say if not presented as comedy, Tod Browning’s Freaks, how he is a fan of Luis Buñuel especially the films that he made in Mexico, the unfair comparison between his cinema and Buñuel’s cinema and what he was trying to achieve as a filmmaker with La Grande Bouffe.
The extra titled ‘Behind the Scenes’ is a collection of onset footage with an occasional comment from the cast and Marco Ferreri who at one point says about La Grande Bouffe, “How he wanted to make a film about mankind’s psychological needs”.
Topics discussed in the extra titled ‘Colors around a Festival’ include, the participants discussing an advert that has a carton drawing of all of their asses for an advert for the film, how each of them gave their all for the film and how proud they are of the final product and how to much emphasis has been put on the vulgar things that occur in the film, instead of what the film is ultimately about, love and affection.
Content wise, the extra titled ‘Forming Ferreri’ is a well-rounded overview of his career as a filmmaker. A few topics explored in this extra include, how Marco Ferreri entry into the film world was as a producer, transitioning to directing by the late 1950’s, his collaborations with author / screenwriter Rafael Azcona, how gender politics is a recurring theme that he would return to on numerous occasions throughout his career and he ends the essay with his thoughts on La Grande Bouffe.
The titled select scene audio commentary covers five key scenes from the film, Before the Bouffe, Meat, Marcello and Michel, Breakfast, Brando and Ugo and Andrea. This audio commentary extra is more a fact track that the cast and other films and directors that they have worked with. Other topics covered in this extra include the cast thoughts on what it was like to work with Marco Ferreri.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art and thirty two page booklet with cast & crew info, two essays, the first essay titled ‘Vulgar Vaudeville’ written by Johnny Mains and the second essay titled ‘The Most Revolving Film That I Have Ever Seen’ written by Michael Brooke, a text piece about all of the food featured in the film, contemporary reviews and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall La Grande Bouffe gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.