Food on film. Rarely is it the star. Although it is so – damned – photogenic.
Of course there is “Supersize me” but it is hardly appetizing. There is McDowell´s in “Coming to America” or Sal´s Pizza in “Do the Right Thing” but they are just places and stages. There is Uncle Mo´s Family Feedbag in “The Simpsons”. But that restaurant closed down soon enough. There is the infamous burger scene in “Pulp Fiction”, Monty Python´s Mr. Creosote and Walther White´s birthday bacon. But they all sort of end a little badly (hitmen doing their thing, a fatal thin mint, five seasons of drug war). There is any Italian restaurant in any mafia movie ever. But they´re just good for being beaten to pulp at by Joe Pesci.
And then there are these here – a small appetizing selection for getting yourself geared up for food. Bon appetit!
“Ratatouille” of course is the brilliant Pixar animated feature film that follows a rat, who is also a talented chef, and a young man, who is not a talented chef at all, on their way to the top of the Parisian food pyramid. The dishes look amazing, you can practically smell their scent through the screen. Then again, everything is amazing about this movie – if you allow yourself not to be too cool for school and not to dismiss it as a “children´s movie”. Ratatouille is beautifully crafted, the scenery is stunning, the humour is well-timed, never over-dosed and the movie has a great feeling for varying speed. My highlight however: Anton Ego. The devastating restaurant critic is a fantastic movie villain (or is he?), elevated to timelessness through the amazing voice acting of Sir Peter O´Toole. Just take the press conference with the young Linguini – the short dialogue, a witty call and response game of repartee, is masterfully written. When Ego crushes Linguini with a slow, dark “I don´t like food. I love food. If I don´t love it, I don´t swallow.”, my left and my right hand decide to slap each other to the middle of next week. Every single time. Also, the moment he eats the final dish is a wonderful surprise and another example of top notch film-making – it sucks the air out of the room, time out of its context, and all you want to do is eat from the same plate. What a way to bring a movie to a close. A tremendous piece of art.
“Chocolat” is a lovely little fairy tale and a sensual delight all at once and if you do not organize a chocolate fondue the next day or go on a dark chocolate shopping spree after seeing it, there is something seriously wrong with you. “Chocolat” is also Johnny Depp at his sexiest. And Juliette Binoche at her none-the-unsexier. And if ever they have babies together, these will be little chocolate coated, guitar-playing, charm-dripping beauties with astounding hair. And the way the molten chocolate slops over anything in her way like the world´s most delicious tidal wave… I will have a chocolate fondue now.
A movie only the French could make. Or the Italians. Or both as in this case. Obscene, flamboyant, over the top but absolutely mind-blowing. Marco Ferrreri lets four middle-aged men indulge in an escapist phantasy, shutting the world out in a manor of manners, with girls and booze and all the food they could ever eat. Literally. A satire on the decadence of modern day, it has it all: Prostitutes, flatulence and excrements, unsexy sex and lots of food. No no, loads of food. It´s flat out ridiculous. Critics were torn apart, the film was either a masterpiece or a disaster. I believe it is both – a disastrous cacophony (pun intended) of outrageous libertine lifestyle, potentially gorgeous food and overly audible farts, a vulgar provocateur of a movie. The food is great bu this won´t make you want to eat more. If anything, it will make you take care your future portions of anything are consistently moderate. In fact, now that I say it, I am not sure why it is in this list after all. Maybe because it should be. See what this film does with you?
Two years, two movies centered on chefs (titled accordingly. Funnily enough, “Burnt” was supposed to be called “Chef” as well, yet changed course once it caught wind they were too late to ride that train). After illusionists it seemed Hollywood´s new accidental go-to motif. While both movies, as can hardly be a surprise now, center on a chef, they have a very different feel. “Burnt” is very dramatic. It is fun at times but most of the time very important, very tense and a little wanted. It´s an optically more than delicious flick with a stellar international cast around Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and Daniel Brühl but flawed with clichés and it does feel a little flat in the end. But boy does the food look good, man do I not want to be in that kitchen and lord do I crave a bit of drama at times. I still liked it.
“Chef” on the other hand works just fine. Creative chef has to cook the same shit every day and gets into trouble with boss and critics before taking his best buddie and his tech-savvy son on the road to sell sandwiches. Of course it is not really a movie about food. It´s a movie about movies and in particular about Jon Favreau’s career. The restaurant is a film studio, he is not a chef but an actor who is told to do the same sort of movie again and again, his boss is not a restaurant owner but a film producer, the restaurant critic is, tada!, a film critic, the food he sets out to make is the very movie we are watching. But along the way, it is a really pleasant film about Food 🙂 It´s really very funny, full of warmly drawn interpersonal scenes, it does not hold back on cussing and is overall really chummy. And it has John Leguizamo in it! Of course it is a vanity project, seen most clearly in how actor, writer, producer and director Favreau writes Scarlett Johansson into his project as his girlfriend and Sofia Vergara as his ex-wife. A heartfelt family movie and a crunchy little feel-good comedy it is nonetheless. And yep, it cherishes its food. Well worth the watch!
BLACK BOOKS, EPISODE 10 “BLOOD” (2002)
“Black Books” is a British sitcom relatively far out on the ca-razy side, starring the fantastic trio of Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig. This series on a customer hating, binge drinking, chain smoking bookshop owner was a major influencer of my Erasmus time in the UK but is mostly just an everlasting classic. Episode 10 stayed with me in particular. Already the Wikipedia sum up makes me laugh out loud – bad: “(…) Manny and Bernard try to re-invent the shop, firstly as a trendy upmarket café-bookshop (with sofas that swallow you) and then, apocalyptically, as an upscale restaurant. However, the shop is overrun by a horde of unseen creatures that Manny and Bernard must make an effort to destroy.” It is as gaga as it sounds. The restaurant is like none you have seen – the preparation work in the kitchen is the most hilarious thing you will ever witness. If you go to one restaurant in your lifetime, make it Bernard Black´s.
Are you hungry now? You should be. Go and get yourself some delicious movie. Go and watch “Big Night”, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and “Eat Drink Man Woman”. I know I will.
Any other suggestions? Let me know below.