In an effort to be seasonal we take a look at ten different approaches to gluttony from the stuffing-centric Taxidermia to Oldboy‘s infamous live-octopus-devouring scene via the heroic overeating of Cool Hand Luke before finishing with Luis BuÃ±uel’s inverted view of eating and defecating in The Phantom of Liberty.
1- La Grande bouffe (1973)
A fate worse than death by chocolate: for La Grande bouffe (1973) Marco Ferreri corralled Europe’s leading fatuous males – Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli and Ugo Tognazzi – alongside the ineffectual Philippe Noiret, as a group of successful but jaded gastronomes taking their food obsession to its ultimate conclusion. Each wraps up his daily business surrounded by admiring female subordinates before heading off, like podgy avatars of Huysmans’ Des Esseintes, to Noiret’s secluded mansion to await the arrival of van-loads of flesh, and a gaggle of apparently obligatory but ultimately supernumerary hookers. Into a whirl of lounging, vintage porn slide-shows and cake art, wanders Andréa Ferréol’s primly fleshy schoolteacher. As the hookers are eclipsed by their hosts’ cuisine-bonding, and possibly disgusted by Piccoli’s heroic struggle with flatulence, only Andréa remains. Ferreri’s always impressive misogyny never came closer to seeing its preposterous logic. Poor Marcello and Michel: they can only declare their love in the language of cake. Skinny pink turtlenecks over seventies waistlines abound. Sadly for our heroes it was probably the additives that did it for them before the calorific. STEPHEN THOMSON
2- Se7en (1995)
The image of gluttony in Se7en is a memorably grotesque one – a massive, sauce-spattered figure lies face down in a plate of spaghetti and vomit, flies buzzing around his swollen head. The first victim of Kevin Spacey’s biblical psycho, poor Gluttony has been force-fed to death, his wrists and ankles bound with barbed wire, made to eat until his intestines ruptured, a human foie gras. To be honest, it seems somehow unfair to lump this poor sap in with the more intentionally greedy monsters on this list, but we are assured by the coroner that he was already quite rotund and therefore, presumably, deserved it. Perhaps there are worse ways to die than shovelling spaghetti sauce until your guts burst, but offhand I can’t think of any. TOM HUDDLESTON
3- The Meaning of Life (1983)
The most obvious movie glutton is of course Mr Creosote – Terry Jones in perhaps the world’s largest fat suit projectile vomiting in a chic French restaurant. Carefully perusing the menu (once John Cleese’s head waiter has wiped off the vomit) before grumpily announcing, ‘I’ll have the lot’. However, watching it nowadays, I realise I may have misunderstood the punch line. I’d always assumed the ‘waffer-thin mint’ to be the straw that made the camel’s guts explode. But having recently discovered the cinematic delights of YouTube I now understand the science behind it all: it is the combination of mint confectionary and fizzy drinks (mixing six crates of brown ale and a Jeroboam of champagne with an After Eight). PAUL HUCKERBY
4- Cool Hand Luke (1967)
One of the more bizarre but ultimately winning displays of gluttony in cinema appears in this 1967 prison camp classic, as Paul Newman’s eponymous inmate (jailed, in a similar display of wilful recklessness, for cutting the heads off parking meters while drunk) forces himself to down fifty hardboiled eggs for a bet. The sight of our hero forcefully cramming yet another slippery white oval into his already overstuffed maw is at first amusing, then worrying, then horrifying, then depressing, and finally sort of heroic. This is gluttony as rebellion against the system, even if the system doesn’t really notice, or care. TOM HUDDLESTON
5- Taxidermia (2006)
While many American films look outward at ‘the other’ to disturb audiences, Taxidermia finds horror in looking inwards by telling the tale of three generations of Hungarians who like stuffing themselves. The first character likes stuffing his favourite appendage into whatever he can, his son likes stuffing his face and his grandson likes stuffing dead animals. The first two, more comedic, acts of the film contain horrific scenes (a pig being graphically slaughtered and an eating contest where the massively obese gorge themselves and then regurgitate) that will elicit gasps and laughter in equal proportion; but it’s the third act, concentrating on the life of the taxidermist that slips over into full-blown horror. I’d like to think I’ve got a strong stomach, but this is one of the few films that has made me feel somewhat faint and genuinely nauseous, so be warned! ALEX FITCH
6- The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
In British cinema rough working-class types have no place in fine dining restaurants. Mr Creosote and East-End gangster Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) in Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover are no exceptions to this rule. Usual social faux-pas, such as using the wrong cutlery, don’t even register. You wouldn’t wish customers like these on Gordon Ramsay. Both share a similar bullying way with restaurant staff (beating them or puking on them) and they can be disturbing to fellow diners (stabbing forks into their cheeks or drenching them in semi-digested food). They are both unimpressed by the restaurant’s pretentiousness – ‘Give it some more parlez-vous FranÃÂ§ais’, Spica advises a hapless waiter. And they feed on delicacies in a most indelicate manner – Creosote orders foie gras, caviar, truffles and quails’ eggs all mixed together in a bucket (with the eggs on top). But of course gluttony is a deadly sin and both Creosote and Spica get their come-uppance in memorable fashion. PAUL HUCKERBY
7- Stand by Me (1986)
Heroic gluttony is a rare thing, but Davey ‘Lardass’ Hogan, like Cool Hand Luke before him, is a pioneer in the field. Appearing in a campfire yarn told by budding writer Wil Wheaton to his childhood compadres, Lardass’ story is one of pies, intrigue, humiliation, revenge, and more pies. Swearing vengeance on the town that spurned him, Lardass drinks a pint of castor oil, swallows a raw egg and enters the Tri-County Pie Eat, shovelling down five whole blueberry pies with both hands tied behind his back. Needless to say the results are deeply disturbing. Never have the words ‘when the smell hit the crowd’ brought on quite such a Technicolor display of human explosion. TOM HUDDLESTON
8- Super Size Me (2004)
Along with Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock is one of the most successful documentarians of his generation and like Moore, he picks obvious, albeit clearly guilty bad guys. With McDonalds he has one of the easiest targets on the planet, associated with obesity and the never-ending Americanisation of our culture. Shock value and tabloid paranoia make this a fascinating but repulsive film to watch. When Spurlock vomits his Supersize meal on what is only the second day of his experiment, it almost seems too soon and too predictable but as is often the way with modern documentaries, the points have to be made disturbingly loud and clear. For your average Guardian reader this is preaching to the converted – of course eating every meal at McDonalds for a month will make you ill – but this is a credible exaggeration of a lifestyle that doesn’t send enough people to the vomitorium. ALEX FITCH
9- Oldboy (2003)
Having just escaped from a mysterious prison where he was kept locked up for fifteen years without ever being told why, Oh Dae-su sits down in a sushi restaurant for his first meal as a free man. The waitress places a live octopus in front of him but before she can chop it up for him Oh Dae-su grabs the mollusc, stuffs its viscous grey head into his mouth, viciously tears it off and proceeds to masticate with frightful determination while the beast’s tentacles squirm and writhe in his hand. Most filmmakers would have shown Oh Dae-su’s thirst for revenge by having him gun down a roomful of villains but Park Chan-wook puts all of his character’s pent-up rage into this brief but intense display of primal gluttony. Almost unbearable to watch, it brilliantly conveys Oh Dae-su’s equally unbearable inner turmoil. VIRGINIE SÃâ€°LAVY
10- The Phantom of Liberty (1974)
Today there is going to be gold.
This micro-feature is supposed to be about gluttony but being the contrarian that I am I prefer to look at gluttony’s occult, shit.
A social gathering in a bourgeois house. Guests sit at a large dining table and chat and gossip banally about their hair-do’s, sex lives, politics, business; they do so sat astride rather fine porcelain toilets, trousers at their ankles, skirts hitched up to their hips. In Luis BuÃ±uel’s 1974 portmanteau film The Phantom of Liberty the conviviality of a typical middle-class dinner party is inverted. It is the norm to defecate socially and collectively but to eat is another matter; to do this the guests cough lightly and ask to be excused from the niceties of group defecation in order to go off and eat in the illicit confines of a special cubicle that is reminiscent of nothing other than a lavatory. A true Freudian surrealist, BuÃ±uel makes the process of eating appear to be a socially embarrassing act to indulge in and a grotesque thing to listen to too. BuÃ±uel really exploits the mystifying echo-chamber-like acoustics of lavatories and the bestial chomp and slather of eating.
In The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, the philosopher Slavoj Zizek talks about the toilet being a conduit between us and a primordial underworld and not just a conduit between us and the equally fascinating worlds of plumbing and sanitation. One only has to gaze briefly at the 1968 version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to see a connection between effluvia, greed, plumbing and terrifying nether worlds. The greedy Bavarian boy Augustus Gloop drinks from a faecal-looking chocolate river and is eventually sucked up a large colon-like pipe. But as the end of this featurette encroaches upon us, let’s move from Dahl to Dali, and close with a quote from a man more than au fait with excrement. In his diary (Diary of a Genius) entry for September 1st, 1958, he states: ‘At daybreak I dreamt that I was the author of several white turds, very clean and extremely agreeable to produce. When I woke up I said to Gala, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Today there is going to be goldÃ¢â‚¬Â’. PHILIP WINTER