The story goes that, following the French premiere of this notorious 1973 shocker, screen goddess Catherine Deneuve refused to speak to her boyfriend, the film’s star Marcello Mastroianni, for a week. Whether it was content or quality at issue remains unknown, but we can’t really blame her. It’s awful.
Mastroianni plays one of four male, middle-class friends who retire to to a large urban mansion to literally eat themselves to death. The reasons for this remain unclear – the film isn’t really concerned with character – but the effects are predictably grotesque, particularly when three prostitutes and a buxom female teacher arrive to swell the party.
Director Marco Ferrerri presumably had some kind of radical, philosophical justification for all this – a symbolic attack on bourgeois excess, perhaps, though that’s not exactly original. But in a modern context, the film just looks crass, shallow and self-satisfied. And in the post-’Human Centipede’ world this kind of behaviour isn’t really shocking any more – the most outrageous thing here is the farting, which is hardly a recommendation.
It’s a fine-looking film – the internal decor is spectacular – and there are a handful of memorable moments, including the sight of Mastroianni drenched in a fountain of human shit. But as ‘La Grande Bouffe’ trudges between scenes of culinary and sexual excess with grim determination, it becomes impossible to care who’s stuffing what in where.