Source: Montgomery Advertiser
10 delicious movies: Hollywood turns food into art form
WARNER HOME VIDEO, Illustration by jeremy wyatt using images from thinkstock.com
Gene Wilder appears in a scene from the classic film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
Food is more than fuel — it’s art. Film can capture only one of the sensations of food, but it does so with relish, both for the sensual pleasure of the viewer and the spiritual fulfillment of the characters.
Here’s a countdown of 10 delectable food movies that are just as satisfying as a good meal.
10. “Chocolat” (2000): Lasse Hallstrom’s film is heaven for chocoholics. A single mother and her daughter open a chocolate shop in a small, cloistered French village wary of the newcomers and their sinful physical pleasures. Juliette Binoche stars as the chocolatier who challenges the puritanical community with her confections and seduces Johnny Depp along the way. It’s “Babette’s Feast” for dummies, but that doesn’t mean it’s dumb — it’s swirled through with sensual beauty and fairy-tale charm that reminds pleasure need not be sin.
9. “Big Night” (1996): Stanley Tucci co-wrote, co-directed and stars in a film with a very Italian take on food, where it’s not a source of physical sustenance so much as spiritual. He plays restaurant owner Secondo, brother to Tony Shalhoub’s Primo; the former is the businessman struggling to keep the traditional restaurant afloat, the latter the temperamental talented chef, and together they gamble everything on a single, blowout feast that brings them a different sort of fulfillment from the one for which they’d hoped. It’s a film a lot like the meal they make: limited in success, but lovingly made.
8. “My Dinner With Andre” (1981): Written by and starring Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, the oft-parodied “My Dinner With Andre” is either an act of cinematic minimalism or an endurance trial, depending on your patience. A theater director and an actor meet for a meal and conversation at a New York City restaurant. The entire film is a conversation, each man championing a different worldview as the restaurant bustles around them. If you can give in to the film’s singular flow, it captures the hypnotic rhythm of a meal, how it opens a door like little else to conversation.
7. “Soylent Green” (1973): This isn’t on the list just to be cute (though, OK, a little to be cute). Starring in one of his many great dystopian sci-fi films, Charlton Heston plays a detective in an overpopulated future Earth where food is scarce and most survive on rations provided by the Soylent Corporation. He investigates a murder and happens upon a much more gruesome discovery (spoiler alert for a 41-year-old movie): Soylent Green is people. It’s a killer reveal, but it’s also a warning shot against the horrors of outpacing the Earth’s resources.
6. “Like Water for Chocolate” (1992): The youngest daughter in her traditional Mexican family, Tita is forbidden to marry her love, Pedro, and is tasked instead to cook and care for her mother into old age. So, she transfers her emotions into her meals, which manifest in unexpected ways in those who eat them. The film itself is a sensual meal of Mexican magical realism, a fairy-tale concoction of true love, evil mothers, ghosts and Mexican revolutionaries.
5. “Tampopo” (1985): We all love a good spaghetti Western. But a ramen Western? That’s how this movie about a humble noodle-shop owner on a quest to perfect her craft was billed. Tampopo is a widow and single mother toiling in a no-name, nothing-special noodle shop; when a trucker named Goro wanders into town and into her life, they embark on a quest to master the art of ramen. It’s a charming story interspersed with humorous vignettes on the human condition and its complex relationship with food.
4. “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (2011): Eighty-five-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono is a marvel of dedication, committing himself body and soul for decades to the perfection of his craft: sushi. You don’t have to have ever eaten sushi in your life to become fully engrossed in this documentary about the owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro in Japan (or even to feel compelled to look up the cost of a flight to Japan after). His unwavering focus is fascinating, humbling and even, weirdly, a little sad, as all art must be.
3. “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (1971): With the exception of maybe a Wonka Bar, I don’t know that you’d actually want to put any of this crazed candymaker’s creations — the lickable wallpaper, the chocolate river, the giant lollipops, even the Everlasting Gobstopper — in your mouth. But as set design, it’s FANTASTIC. A down-and-out boy named Charlie Bucket finds one of five golden tickets to tour the legendary Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and embarks on a psychedelic, candy-fueled trip that became a cult favorite, with good reason.
2. “Babette’s Feast” (1987): In this Danish drama based on a story by the famed Danish writer Isak Dinesen, a pair of pious and elderly Christian sisters oversee an austere, dwindling, joyless sect in 19th-century Denmark far removed from any of the physical pleasures of life. Enter Babette, a French refugee, whom the sisters take in as a toiling cook; when she wins a lottery, she spends the money preparing an exotic meal for the congregation that took her in. It’s more than a meal — it’s a metaphor for healing, sacrifice and giving thanks, and an assertion that it is no sin to enjoy life. The film won the Oscar for best foreign-language film.
1. “Ratatouille” (2007): “Anyone can cook,” this Pixar film asserts, and that maxim extends even to rodents. A rat named Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) dreams of leaving behind garbage bins and putting his finely tuned taste buds to work in the world of Parisian fine dining — not a terribly rodent-friendly business, that. All Pixar films are visually sumptuous, but there’s something particularly striking about the animated flavors of “Ratatouille” in the City of Light, where food isn’t fuel but music you can taste.