I’m quite embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t seen La Grande Bouffe until a few weeks ago… Which is very surprising, if you know anything about me, my tastes, or my politics.  A brand new restoration of Marco Ferreri’s 1973 highly-controversial, heady trash masterpiece (or, trashterpiece); which tackles the atrocities brought about by consumer culture, which, if you (like myself) are of the cynical, hopeless persuasion, in regards to the future of humanity, can be seen in quite a humorous light; was released this week on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Arrow Video US.

I’ve always been a major fan of many of cinema history’s most contentious efforts, from the X-rated and banned art house films of the ‘60s and ‘70s, filled with intentionally “obscene” analogies to the abuses of capitalism, communism, and (although it’s really just a synonym for the previous two designations) fascism; to Lars von Trier and Catherine Breillat’s explorations of body politics, most of which require ID that proves you’re old enough to enter a pornographic theatre.

… And not only am I a fan of the methods associated with Ferreri, but I’m also quite the fan of some of his work… Dillinger is Dead, the tale of a bourgeois husband driven to madness by simply spending a contemplative night in his own, luxury-filled, house is not only one of the most brilliantly Marxy movies I’ve experienced, but I also suspect inspired one of my favorite Marilyn Manson lyrics… Don’t Touch the White Woman!, an absurdist farce about a reenactment of Custer’s Last Stand that takes place amidst the ashes of a Paris strip mall, is probably the most conventionally engaging and hyper-comedic take on colonization of the 20th century… And Bye Bye Monkey, which has Gerard Depardieu raising a chimpanzee as his own child, amidst the beauty and often ambiguous backdrop of things like “feminism” and “performance art” in 1970s New York’s downtown scene, is surely one of the most charmingly weird films you’ll ever see…

… Yet, somehow, until very recently, I had never experienced Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe, a leftist opus on hyper-consumption that has legendary thespians Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Ugo Tognazzi, and Phillipe Noiret plot a weekend getaway to a mansion where, accompanied by three hookers and a school teacher, they plan to eat and fuck themselves to death… Surely inspired by Sade, the exceptionally dark comedy is quite reminiscent of and often discussed alongside Pasolini’s take on Sade’s first novel, which came to fruition just two years later and transposed the tale of libertines onto Nazi-occupied Northern Italy, in what would have been Mussolini’s last days…

After first seeing La Grande Bouffe, after years of lazily-executed anticipation, my first thought was, “God, I wish I’d seen this before Salo!”  La Grande Bouffe is actually a, arguably, more imaginative appropriation of Sade’s work than Salo, which is a little more literal (un-consensual fornication, coprophagia, dismemberment, homicide, etc.)  Ferreri’s, however, has eating (literal consumption) take on the primary desire of these libertines, who would rather have something than fuck that something.  Ferreri’s tale also re-objectifies the females as something that are simply inconsequential, as opposed to something that evoke hate… which may actually be a better analogy for the world in which we live…

The only problem that I can find with La Grande Bouffe is that Salo, indeed, does exist… For their remarkable similarities, it makes me sad to say that Salo is superior in nearly every way… Although Pasolini might come in second to Ferreri when it comes to creativity, his film itself is more shocking, horrifying, nauseating, poignant, layered, intellectual, and clever in execution than Ferreri’s very similar film… which probably still deserves to be called a “masterpiece.”  While Salo is easily as quotable and profound as the Bible (and quite a bit more comically accomplished), La Grande Bouffe’s humor tends to be more subtle and/or juvenile.  “Why do you eat, if you’re not hungry?  It’s not possible. It can’t be hunger,” is a pretty witty and wise assertion of Ferreri’s, but, “It is not enough to kill the same person over and over again. It is far more recommendable to kill as many beings as possible,” and, “In all the world, no voluptuousness flatters the senses more than social privilege,” not only hit about 10-tons harder, but inspire much heartier laughs amongst the disheartened.  And it’s a bit hard to be roused by farting between the sheets, when you’ve already experienced tweens being forced to feast on fecal matter in perhaps Salo’s most famous scene.

I truly, madly, deeply wished I was able to “consume” La Grande Bouffe before shockfests like Salo, Sweet Movie, Pink Flamingos, and Man Bites Dog had become long-standing A-listers in my regular rotation of home viewing.  And for those of you not thoroughly familiar and desensitized to these profoundly academic stomach-turners, I would recommend seeing Marco Ferreri’s most famous work ASAP… And then the rest of them… in addition to Ferreri’s previously mentioned works…