Sunday, September 11, 2005

Podcast #9: Food Movies

Over in the Discussion Forums of Gastronomic Meditations, there has been a lively discussion going on about favorite Food Films. Many have mentioned Big Night, the 1996 film starring Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub as Italian brothers in the 1950's trying to keep their family restaurant afloat. Of particular note is the creation of a Timpano, a masterpiece of a dish, named for and shaped like a drum, filled with meats, pasta, cheese, and baked all day in the oven, then unmolded with great ceremony. This is a favorite, with the camera lovingly lingering over the hands of the chef.

Of course, as an avid filmgoer and former actor, I have many favorites of my own. For an Asian take on the loving sensuous shots over hands at work, and wisps of steam coming from pots, as well as the rythms of a restaurant kitchen contrasting with the slow, comforting home kitchen, see Ang Lee's 1994 film Eat Drink Man Woman. This Taiwanese film is one of the best food films ever. The story of an aging chef and widower losing his sense of taste, and his travails dealing with his three daughters, each pushing for independence in her own way, it is absolutely exquisite. The opening scene, following the chef's hands as he lovingly prepares the traditional Sunday family meal, a ritual which his daughters no longer hold so dear, is without a doubt the most exquisite food sequence ever commited to celluloid. I haven't seen Tortilla Soup (2001), but it's a remake of Eat Drink Man Woman with a Mexican-American family, starring Hector Elizondo.

Speaking of Mexicans, Alfonso Arau's film adaptation of Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate is another sensual foodlovers delight. The genre of magical realism lends itself well to a kitchen setting, as Tita's exquisite food creations are the vehicle for her magical talents. I would recommend reading the book as well, as each chapter has a recipe along with it.

Other greats of the genre:

Tampopo ("The First Japanese Noodle Western"), Babette's Feast (1987 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film), A Chef in Love, Dinner Rush, Fried Green Tomatoes, Soul Food, A Walk in the Clouds, Woman on Top, Who is Kiling the Great Chefs of Europe? How's that for a mix of international cuisines?

Some other Food related films which don't pay as much homage to sensual food, but are a wee bit more tongue-in-cheek:

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Soylent Green, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover ("Cook Michael! This was his favorite restaurant."), Eating Raoul, The Silence of the Lambs ("Fava Beans and a nice Chianti"), and La Grande Bouffe a film about 4 men who are eating themselves to death. These last films are not for the weak of stomach, or to be seen on an empty one.

Featured Websites:
For a list of Food related films, go to the London Food Film Fiesta website.

Quick Tip: Tomato Paste

Music: "Can't Hold It Down", Andy Sullivan.


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