By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: They stuff their faces.
This film will start an annual Thanksgiving Day theme of reviewing movies that have something to do with food and eating. This one may be the most notorious of them all and despite its offbeat plot and crude scenes won the Cannes Film Festival’s International Critics award as well as attaining a large cult following and be one of the highest grossing movies in the history of Italian cinema.
The story deals with four middle-aged men (Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Philippe Noiret, Michel Piccoli) who despite attaining affluence and wealth are bored with life and decide their only recourse is to get together for a weekend and commit group suicide by eating themselves to death.
At first the movie will make you hungry. After an initial set-up the characters can be seen eating in just about every shot. The variety of foods and menu that is served is almost mouth-watering and features a wide array of exquisite dishes seen only in the most fanciest of restaurants. However, after visually seeing these people overeat I felt myself feeling as bloated as the characters and almost sick. The film also gets quite gross with several segments featuring loud sounds of flatulence and a scene where the toilet bursts and covers the men and room with feces that even drips down and gets into the kitchen.
Some may find this ‘hilarious’ while others will think it’s disgusting. For me despite the moments of over-the-top crudeness the strongest scene may actually be when the characters start dying and their dead bodies are carried into a freezer while the rest of them continue to make food and stuff their mouths like it is a compulsion.
The four leads are old pros who couldn’t give a bad performance if they tried. I started to wonder though how they could eat so much and whether the scenes were all done in one take with no retake as eventually I think they would all start puking. Mastroianni’s death scene is a stand-out simply because it manages to keep his expression completely frozen and does not manage to blink for several minutes, which I found impressive. Tognazzi’s death moment is also fun although it’s Andrea Ferreol who starts out as a proper school teacher, but ends up becoming as decadent and hedonistic as all the men combined that steals it.
The film makes a strong if not impactful statement about gluttony and how a life of prestige and luxury may actually be more of a trap and curse. The more some people get of it the more they want until it is never enough and death may end up being their only true source of salvation and escape.
The idea is outrageous and clever and I loved the concept, but the execution is lacking. The direction is too loose with scenes going on longer than they should. Some tighter editing would have helped the pace and momentum. I also don’t think it is possible for a person to stuff themselves with food and then die as I think instead they would just vomit it all out.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: May 17, 1973
Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes
Director: Marco Ferreri
Studio: Films 66
Available: VHS, DVD