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Cinema, Gastronomy

Gastronomy in film


Great filmmakers often suggest a dissociation from reality by showing a laid out table. I could point to several movies to support this thesis. Federico Fellini’s “E la Nave Va” (1983), for instance; or Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” (2006), which follows the queen consort up to the outbreak of the French Revolution.

In Coppola’s film, a sumptuous palatial table is often present. In an interview during filming, the filmmaker said that production even had Ladurée, the prestigious sweet makers, supply macaroons for the scenes with the royal family at table. Some of the film’s most eccentric scenes take place around the table filled with Ladurée’s delicate sculptures made of white, pink and light blue sweets.

Italians are masters at bringing gastronomy to the screens. In “La Grande Bouffe” (1973), Marcello Mastroianni and three friends go to a villa to eat themselves to death.

But the French are not to be left behind. In the comedy “Delicatessen” (1991), directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro created a delicatessen shop that sells nothing less than human flesh. More recently, the documentary “The Gleaners and I” (2000), about food gleaners in farmers’ markets around France, is worth mentioning. The New York Times has ranked it as one of the thousand best movies of all time.

Today, when chefs get such mega exposure that they end up becoming popstars, gastronomy in movies has been upgraded to the leading role. Even animation has joined the table. “Ratatoille” (2007) was partly inspired by the story of Bernard Loiseau, the French chef who killed himself after rumours went round that his restaurant was about to lose one of its three Michelin stars. The movie has a rat that dreams of becoming a popstar chef himself in a French kitchen, and befriends a bumbling line cook.

Also, there are movies in which food takes on an almost erotic role. This is the case of “In the Mood for Love” (2000) by Hong Kong filmmaker Kar-Wai Wong.

During the film’s three hours, a man and a woman meet at a rundown restaurant, and during their meals they try to discover whether their spouses have had extramarital affairs. However, the pair end up falling in love with each other, although that was not their initial plan.