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Arty French Film--It's Good For You!: Last night I watched the ambitiously obscene La Grande Bouffe (IMDBwhack: "antique-car"), which translates as "The Big Blow-out" but which I shall hilariously mistranslate as "The Big Beef". The brilliant conceit of this movie is that four Frenchmen[0] decide to commit suicide by eating themselves to death. I feel churlish complaining about such a gifted premise, but we're never given any clue as to their motivation for doing do. There are hints that this appetite for deadly overindulgence is born of some Fight Club-ish desire for the jaded modern soul to feel something real and true, no matter what the consequences. But what actually happened was the film made it look like any given Frenchman wants to commit suicide, and lacks only the resources to do so in truly spectacular fashion. This, I suppose, was the 70s.

If I, myself, were planning to commit suicide by eating myself to death, then I, like the characters in the film, would want the relevant food to be really good. Unfortunately, I would then feel guilty about putting the cooks (for such there would have to be) through all this trouble to make all this food that I was just going to use in a suicide attempt. The characters in the film cleverly sidestep this problem by enlisting among their number a gourmet chef, whom they all assist in preparing the food. I really like this idea, and to me it's the most touching part of the film. It's not a big, wasteful, impersonal catered bachanal like I was expecting: the characters are intimately involved in preparing the instruments of their suicide.

Oddly enough, the last half-hour, the climax of the film, is pretty boring. But there are some funny scenes near the beginning, and great French movie lines like "Le deluge universal... du merde."

There is lots of pointless French movie sex in this movie. Also, the characters die like Muppets (I don't think I'm giving away anything when I say that people die in this movie). They're living, living, living, then suddenly they sort of thrash around and stretch out, dead. This fits into my mental picture of Muppet death, in which the animating force, or "hand", leaves the Muppet body and lays out the Muppet prostrate on the nearest table.

To get into the spirit of the film, I gorged myself on the following food while watching it:

I was pretty full after that, but I survived.

[0] Three of the Frenchmen are actually played by Italians. Sure, why not. I couldn't tell.

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