Buffet froid  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Buffet froid is a 1979 French film, written and directed by Bertrand Blier, and starring Gérard Depardieu, Carole Bouquet, Bernard Blier and Jean Carmet.


The film begins with Alphonse Tram (Gérard Depardieu), a less than gregarious character, idly chatting to an accountant who is travelling home very late. The accountant, a man of orthodox social outlook and standing is disturbed by and fearful of this rambling loner, more so when Tram attempts to give him his bloodstained knife (in order to reduce the chances of him "doing something silly..."). They argue and the accountant puts the knife on a seat a few feet away behind them. They argue some more and then notice the knife has disappeared.

Later that night, Tram discovers the same man in a tunnel leading from another metro station, lying down with the knife stabbed into his stomach. He has no explanation to the police inspector Bernard (Blier) he reports it to as to how it happened. He speculates, perhaps unwisely but without caring for the potential consequences (as in Camus' L'Étranger), to the police inspector that it was his own knife that killed the accountant. The police inspector, irate at having to consider a complex case while off-duty, pushes Tram out of his apartment saying he has a bellyfull of murders all day and doesn't want another to deal with. This sparks off a series of bizarre occurrences around the city as Tram's wife is killed, and the perpetrator (Jean Carmet) who confesses to the murder is seemingly taken light-heartedly by the police officer and Tram himself.


The plot of this film is extremely complex and elusive, for the simple reason that we are left at odds as to the motivation of the characters to perform acts that are systematically the opposite of what is expected of them. Thus, the police inspector allows murders, commits murders himself and pretends not being occupied with his profession when off duty.

The film owes much of its ideological framework to surrealism, re-enforced by an ambiance of mystery et theatricality, very similar to the work of Luis Buñuel, who was known to punctuate his work with numerous « gratuitous » murders. We are also reminded of the absurd theatre of Alfred Jarry and Eugène Ionesco.

The location of the metro station of the RER of La Défense, then ending its construction phase and not yet receiving its 170 000 daily employees as is the case today, highly contributes to the atmosphere of the opening sequence of the film: a dehumanized urban space, cold and anxiety-ridden, filmed by night, the only encounters to be expected those of marginalized human beings. All "urban" scenes were filmed in Créteil, in areas under construction at the time.

Bertrand Blier reunites a sublime trio, with his fetish actor Gérard Depardieu), a un-police officer (Bernard Blier) and an assassin strangler of women played by Jean Carmet, all at the peak of their careers.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Buffet froid" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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