Monday, December 21, 2009

L' Exces Francais: One Film, One Novel. Many Dinner Parties

La Grande Bouffe

This film is so renowned and so good that it is often difficult to find in libraries and rental shops from which copies have been purloined. Pay the fine and one has a gem.

This is a French-Italian film directed by Marco Ferreri, 1973 and writtten by Marco Ferreri and Raphael Azcona. To translate bouffe (f.n.), one consults the Larouse dictionaire, and finds: grub, blow-out (British), to eat (familiar). And it is close to buffon (n.m.clown, jester. On the DVD jacket, it is translated as feast, but it seems far more complex than that. Finally, Impressionist painter Paul Cezzane's family farm near Aix-en-Provence was called Jas de Bouffan. Ah, well.

And this cult film has given birth to "Grande Bouffe" dinner parties, just as "Babbett's Feast" engendered our interest in haute cuisine, though I would hope that they conclude on a healthier and happier note. Sort of the way in which Les Blanc's "Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers" spawned all the garlic parties of the 1990s, continuing even today.

The plot: Four middle-aged men appear to take a final leave of their families and careers, meet at a family estate one winter weekend,and engage in what they call "un seminair gastronomique." The event seems to be well-planned. A refrigerator truck delivers the groceries - whole sides of beef, the wines, boars' heads, cheeses and so forth. The housekeeper is sent home, and the men occupy the kitchen for some serious cooking.

Alas, they feel something is missing: female company. So three poules are invited from town and by chance, a thirty-something Rubenesque local school teacher joins them, too. She at first appears innocent and agreeable. She evolves into very agreeable.

As all the reviews state, they eat and eat a
nd eat. Pate, roasts, game birds, cheeses.
More pate, crepes, raw oysters, hot chocolate, kidneys bourdelaise. They over-eat to excess and one by one, are seduced by the teacher and eventually, by their own livers, hearts, gastrointestinal systems.
But on the way to their collective demises, we experience with the men's weaknesses. doubts, losses and failures . And the school teacher, who has been used sensually but more as a plaything or a playmate, alone survives.

The Vintage Caper

A 2009
a novel by Peter Mayle, author of previous gastronomical adventures in the South of France as A Year in Provence, Hotel Pastis, and In Search of Cezanne. The story begins as straight forward detective fiction but as soon as the facts are known and proven unreliable, the fun begins and no morsel is left undescribed and unappreciated..

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