As one can imagine, there is no shortage of famous Italian films to view for the expat attempting to delve deeper into Italian culture. This past weekend I saw a very famous movie from Italian director Marco Ferreri: La Grande Abbuffata. This movie was screened in 1973 at the 26th Cannes Film Festival, to mixed reviews. Not to give away any spoilers… the movie follows the story of 4 friends, holed up in a house in France, interested in eating themselves to death. That’s right, the whole movie is focused around these 4 guys (the super famous: Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, and Ugo Tognazzi) and how they are stuffing themselves with the best foods money can buy, hoping to expire while eating. (Check out a scene from the movie here, but beware, it’s not suitable for work!)
When I first downloaded the movie, I assumed it had something to do with comedy. More specifically, a big laugh or a big funny scene, since I assumed abbuffata had to do with buffo, the adjective for funny/silly in Italian. As it turns out, an abbuffata is a huge feast. It comes from the Italian reflexive verb, abbuffarsi, or to binge, to gorge, to pig out.
My usual etymology website did not have an entry for abbuffata or abbuffarsi, but I found a website on Sicilian dialect which shed some light onto today’s word. In Sicilian dialect, primarily in Palermo, a buffa is how you say, toad. (Toad in regular Italian is rospo.) People say ‘gonfiarsi come un rospo,’ or to fill yourself (become bloated) like a toad, so in Sicilian it would be: pig out until you look like a buffa – bloated as a buffa.
Who would have thought, right?
The film was very… interesting. Mostly super crude and crass, in every way possible, even for this crass American. I basically wavered between being starving, being disgusted, and not wanting to eat ever again. Nonetheless, it was worth a viewing, and does indeed have a deeper message than just 4 guys who want to eat themselves to death.
‘Mi sono abbuffata di tortellini a Bologna questo weekend.’ – I stuffed myself with tortellini in Bologna this weekend.’