In 1973, Cannes jury president Ingrid Bergman condemned La Grande Bouffe as the most sordid and vulgar movie she had ever seen.
La Grande Bouffe was directed by Marco Ferreri and written by himself and Rafael Azcona, the scriptwriter with whom he worked for 20 years. In 1965 they had already written L'uomo dei cinque palloni, the story of a man who wants to know how much air a globe can contain, becoming obsessed by this idea and ending up faking the suicide. This interest in knowing what the limit was, at which moment things exploded, is what they finally ended up developing again - and with more depth - in La Grande Bouffe.
The main roles are played by Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Michel Piccoli and Philippe Noiret, and the characters of the movie have the same names as the actors. All coming from the higher spheres of society, they meet in a lordly villa with the aim of passing a gastronomic weekend together. The claustrophobic and desolate atmosphere of the mansion demonstrates to us from the very beginning that there is something not quite right in this meeting: these friends have met to commit suicide by eating. In addition, they contract a few prostitutes and a teacher to join them.
In the film, sex and food are instruments of death rather than ways of surviving. The fact that the main characters of the film belong to the upper classes justifies us in saying that there is a critique towards the morality of materialistic society. They want to know how far they can go. They are trying to fill in the constant dissatisfaction they feel, the intrinsic existential emptiness of the human being, by eating. They have money and can allow it, they can eat and fuck everything they want and do it until they die. Only the prostitutes who they invite to the “party” (and who they consider neither as women, nor as human beings) run away from this trip towards the most absolute decadence. The teacher stays with them.
The claustrophobic atmosphere and imagery are as colourful and baroque as the dishes they eat. The good manners of those who were behaving themselves initially lead to scenes where the margins have disappeared; there is no intimacy and they end up sleeping all together in an enormous black bed. This accumulation does not seem to be accidental: the baroque is an artistic style usually associated with the final phase and decadence of a period - the same decadence that the main characters transmit with their state of euphoria, which is actually nothing other than desperation.
Marco Ferreri leads us on a trip towards the most primary feelings of the human being. The sense of humour is constant in the whole movie; the thinnest irony is mixed with the vulgarity of farts, belches and the sound of mouths chewing oily chicken. La Grande Bouffe manages to alter and disorder the spirits of the spectator. In the seventies it was considered as a grotesque, eschatological and inconvenient movie. Today it continues to be thought of as such.
By Julia Sabina Gutiérrez