May 10, 1997
Marco Ferreri, 68, Is Dead; Directed 'La Grande Bouffe'
By LAWRENCE VAN GELDER
Marco Ferreri, the fiercely satiric Italian director perhaps best known for ''La Grande Bouffe,'' in which four charming middle-age men gorge themselves to death in a suicide pact, died yesterday in a hospital in Paris. He was 68.
The cause of death was a heart attack, Reuters reported.
''The Italian cinema has lost one of its most original artists, one of its most personal authors,'' said Gilles Jacob, artistic director of the Cannes International Film Festival. ''No one was more demanding nor more allegorical than he in showing the state of crisis of contemporary man.''
Mr. Ferreri, whose often funny and erotic films stirred shock and outrage with their essentially bleak, anarchic view of society, made no secret of his attitude.
In a 1977 interview, he said: ''The values that once existed no longer exist. The family, the bourgeoisie -- I'm talking about values, morals, economic relationships. They no longer serve a purpose. My films are reactions translated into images.''
Besides ''La Grande Bouffe'' (1973) with its destructive orgy of eating, Mr. Ferreri's notable films included ''The Conjugal Bed'' (1963), in which an eager 40-year-old bridegroom becomes a fatality, the victim of his lusty young wife's sexual appetites; ''The Ape Woman'' (1964), about a wretched woman covered with hair whose husband stuffs and exhibits her after her death, and ''The Last Woman'' (1976), in which a man persuaded by a beautiful woman that his sex is at the root of his egocentricity cuts off his penis to prove her wrong.
To those who accused him of using wretched excess for shock value, Mr. Ferreri replied: ''Doesn't life shock you enough? The shock I show is no bigger than the shock we see in daily living.''
Mr. Ferreri, who had homes in Paris and Rome, attracted major actors to his films. Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Michel Piccoli and Philippe Noiret were the suicidal gourmets of ''La Grande Bouffe'' (''The Big Feast''). Mr. Tognazzi was the victim and Marina Vlady the queen bee in ''The Conjugal Bed,'' and Mr. Tognazzi was the tinhorn showman married to Annie Girardot in ''The Ape Woman.'' Gerard Depardieu was the male supremacist opposite Ornella Muti in ''The Last Woman.''
Mr. Mastroianni, who starred in several Ferreri films, said: ''I like his world, his view of life. I think he's modern, more than modern, in fact. And he chooses an actor because he likes what's inside, your sensitivity.''
Mr. Ferreri's films also included ''La Carne'' (''Flesh,'' 1991) about an obsessive love that ends in cannibalism, and ''La Casa del Sorriso'' (''The House of Smiles''), about love and sex in an old people's home, which won the Golden Bear, the prize for best film at the Berlin Film Festival, in 1991. ''La Grande Bouffe'' and ''The Wheelchair'' (1960) won the International Critics Prize at Cannes.
Mr. Ferreri was born in Milan on May 11, 1928. He was a university dropout who became a liquor salesman and dabbled in journalism before he began filming commercials. For a while he worked in subordinate capacities in neo-realist films and finally got his start as a feature film director in Spain in the late 1950's.
His survivors were not immediately known.
Mr. Ferreri said film was a place where society could forget its divisions.
''The cinema has always been a place open to everyone,'' he said. ''When the cinema arrived, for a few cents, people who were rich or poor finally found themselves laughing and crying together.''
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