21 Aug 2009 Free

Four world-weary middle-aged men decide to gorge themselves to death in one final, orgiastic weekend of sex and gourmet food.

La Grande Bouffe
Directed: Marco Ferreri
Screenplay: Marco Ferreri and Rafael Azcona
(1973, 130 mins, colour DVD)

La Grande Bouffe was described by The New York Times as ‘vulgar vaudeville on an epic scale…a mordant, chilling, hilarious, dirty movie’. Ferreri’s black-comic satire of modern consumer society has a perverse, peculiar premise, especially given the European star status of the lead actors during the early 1970s. Fellini regular Marcello Mastroianni, French acting legends Phillippe Noiret and Michel Piccoli and Italian star Ugo Tognazzi play the four world-weary middle-aged men who decide to gorge themselves to death in one final, orgiastic weekend of sex and gourmet food.

Marcello (Mastroianni) is an airline pilot. Ugo (Tognazzi) is a master chef. Michel (Piccoli) works in television and Philippe is a judge and owner of the villa where the four meet to consummate their pact. First they receive a vast delivery of food, then, prompted by Marcello, they arrange for three prostitutes to join them. When a schoolteacher, Andrea (Ferréol), visits the villa, Philippe invites her to dinner too. The eating begins in earnest – of such items as a huge pie shaped like a woman’s behind. Soon the prostitutes leave, but Andrea chooses to stay on with the men, right up until their smelly, messy, bitter end.

The metaphor of over-eating, and sexual desire (personified by Mastroianni’s voraciously libidinous pilot), is of course a potent one. The men concentrate wholly on the magnificence of their indulgent excess, hammering home the satire far more effectively than any existential tract or exposition.

Marco Ferreri (11th May 1928–9th May 1997) was an Italian film director, screenwriter and actor. He was born in Milan and died in Paris. Upon his death, Gilles Jacob, artistic director of the Cannes International Film Festival, said: “The Italian cinema has lost one of its most original artists, one of its most personal authors (…) No one was more demanding nor more allegorical than he in showing the state of crisis of contemporary man.”

Park Nights 2009

Park Nights is an annual series of events staged every Friday night in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. The 2009 programme included music, theatre, performances, talks and film screenings. The season culminated in October with Poetry Marathon, the latest in the Gallery’s acclaimed series of Marathons, conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine Gallery Co-Director.

All events were held in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009 designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA.


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