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Food for thought

It seems like a strange idea for a fast food restaurant to sponsor a documentary pointing out the evils of the American food industry, but I'm sure the people at Chipotle know what they're doing by offering free screenings of Robert Kenner's's "Food, Inc." at the Kendall Square Cinema on July 15 and the Coolidge Corner Theatre on July 16. And if you're like me, any movie that causes you to lose your appetite brings to mind Marco Ferreri's "La Grande Bouffe" (1973) in which three middle aged men relentlessly and graphically eat themselves to death.

Perhaps you're not familiar with Ferreri: when God made Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Federico Fellini all the pieces he had left over he used to make this fearless and transgressive master of bad taste. So here's your chance to catch up: July 10-13  the Brattle Theatre will be screening Ferreri's rarely seen and truly sui generis tour de force "Dillinger is Dead" (1969). No, it's not an early version of Michael Mann's "Public Enemies," but fans of that movie might be fascinated by the inserted snippets of archival footage of Dillinger and his victims. Instead it is a surreal parable of civilization and its discontents as Glauco, an industrial designer of gas masks played by Michel Piccoli (he's also in "La Grande Bouffe"), returns home after being lectured at length by a colleague about Marcuse's theories of alienation. There he finds his gorgeous wife (Anita Pallenberg with three lines of dialogue, all dubbed into Italian) nearly passed out in bed and his dinner cold. So he decides to cook something for himself.

Ah, the food connection. But not so fast. Things take an unexpected turn when, while looking for some ingredient in an overstuffed closet, he finds a rusty revolver wrapped in a 1934 newspaper with headlines about Dillinger's demise.

 

Many absurdist non-sequiturs follow, including Glauco marinating the gun in olive oil and painting it red with white polka dots. By the time he acts out scenes from home movies and joins the maid Sabina in bed with a watermelon, you begin to suspect that what Chekhov said about loaded guns might eventually come into play.

 

Ferreri's tone remains affectless throughout, underscoring the weirdness of the material, and Piccoli comes off as simplemindedly bemused, as if suffering from a head injury that has turned him into a childish but inventive sadist.


Wacky as "Dillinger is Dead" may be, in its own metaphorical way it's as devastating as a critique of capitalist excess as "Food, Inc."


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