Buffet Froid (1979) – A Bunuel-esque, rollicking good yarn from Bertrand Blier

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Buffet Froid (aka Cold Cuts) is one absolutely bonkers surreal and darkly comic film that Luis Bunuel would be very happy to see if he were alive today. It is literally impossible to describe this film and write an in-depth analysis on it because that would take all the fun out of it. So I’ll keep it as short as possible. Gerard Depardieu plays Alphonse Tram, a random jobless French guy who one day stumbles upon a lone accountant seated at an almost empty railway station. He talks about having nightmares and this being the cause for his inability to get a good night’s sleep. He carries a knife because he is paranoid. The knife somehow disappears in the middle of their conversation. Alphonse’s rambling gets on the nerves of his acquaintance and he runs away from him. Later, while taking a stroll through the station, he sees this exact same man lying in a corner with a knife sticking out of his belly. The man seems indifferent to his fate and seems quite eager to get to it.

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Alphonse thinks he has killed this man and tells his wife about this but she thinks it’s one of his episodes. Later, his wife is killed and the murderer (played by Jean Carmet) appears at his door and rings the bell. Alphonse doesn’t react like how a normal man would react to the news of his wife’s death and invites him to a drink and dinner. This building that Alphonse lives in is almost empty just like the railway station that he was in earlier and he finds out that the only other occupant of the building is a police inspector (played by legendary French comedian Bernard Blier who also happens to be the father of the film’s director). Alphonse tells the inspector that he thinks he has killed someone but the inspector seems least bothered by it. This inspector is then introduced to his wife’s murderer and they all sit together and have dinner. The inspector’s doorbell rings and a stranger appears and asks Alphonse to carry out a murder for him. Next thing you know, all three are taking part in this “picnic” together. Okay, I’m just going to stop there because it only gets crazier after this.

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At first, every single absurd event may seem random and pointless but as the story progresses, we can see that each one makes a statement about the chaotic world we are living in. Each of the characters may or not represent something or each of the events could either represent the fears of the characters. Or, it could be even a nightmare that is being experienced by a single character or it could be a “collective nightmare” shared by the three principal characters. Like I said, it’s hard to quite put your finger on what each thing means but somehow deep in your subconscious, you can guess what they all mean. It’s exactly the kind of stuff that you would expect to see in a Bunuel film and I’ve had quite a blast enjoying in the dark humor that lurks behind every frame. Did I like the film? Totally! Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it. It’s one of those films that challenges your intellect and invites you to come up with  single or multiple interpretations, whichever you please.

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