Movies about food are the only thing better than food itself and fortunately there have been quite a number of them produced. I have selected the ten I think are the best of the genre and included a small snippet of each below. Interestingly only 3 of the ten films here are in the English language – I wonder what that says about the UK and USA when it comes to fine cuisine!
10. Big Night 1996, English
Primo and Secondo are two brothers who have emigrated from Italy to open an Italian restaurant in America. Primo is the irascible and gifted chef, brilliant in his culinary genius, but determined not to squander his talent on making the routine dishes that customers expect. Secondo is the smooth front-man, trying to keep the restaurant financially afloat, despite few patrons other than a poor artist who pays with his paintings. The owner of the nearby Pascal’s restaurant, enormously successful (despite its mediocre fare), offers a solution – he will call his friend, a big-time jazz musician, to play a special benefit at their restaurant. Primo begins to prepare his masterpiece, a feast of a lifetime, for the brothers’ big night…
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9. Chocolat 2000, English
Vianne Rocher and her young daughter are drifters who are met with skepticism and resistance when they move to a conservative town in rural France and open a chocolate shop during Lent. As Vianne begins to work her magic and help those around her, the townspeople are soon won-over by her exuberance and her delicious chocolates – except for the mayor, who is determined to shut her down. When a group of river drifters visit the town, Vianne teaches the townspeople something about acceptance, and finds love for herself along the way.
8. Kitchen Stories 2003, Norwegian
In post war Sweden it was discovered that every year, an average housewife walks the equivalent number of miles as the distance between Stockholm and Congo, while preparing her family meals. So the Home Research Institute sent out eighteen observers to a rural district of Norway to map out the kitchen routines of single men. The researchers were on twenty-four-hour call, and sat in special strategically placed chairs in each kitchen. Furthermore, under no circumstances were the researchers to be spoken to, or included in the kitchen activities.
7. Bella Martha 2001, German
In a German restaurant, Chef Martha Klein is the undisputed supreme ruler of the kitchen staff and woe to any customer who would dare criticize her cooking. Her life is firmly centered around cooking which takes on a obsessive level with stubborn single mindedness. Even when she is ordered to take therapy, she still constantly talks about her work and the iron clad control she relishes in her task. All that changes when her sister dies in a car accident, leaving her 8 year old daughter, Lina. Martha takes her niece in and while making enquiries for her estranged father, she struggles to care for this stubbornly headstrong child. Meanwhile at work, a new chef named Mario is hired on and Martha feels threatened by this unorthodox intruder. The pressures of both her private and work life combine to create a situation that will fundamentally call her attitudes and life choices into question while these interlopers into her life begin to profoundly change it.
6. God of Cookery 1996, Cantonese
The God of Cookery, a brilliant chef who sits in judgement of those who would challenge his title, loses his title when a jealous chef reveals him to be a con-man and humiliates him publicly. As this new chef takes on the God of Cookery’s role, the former God tries to pull himself back on top again, to challenge his rival and find once and for all who is the true God of Cookery.
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5. tampopo 1985, Japanese
In this humorous paean to the joys of food, the main story is about trucker Goro who rides into town like a modern Shane to help Tampopo set up the perfect fast-food noodle restaurant. Woven into this main story are a number of smaller stories about the importance of food, ranging from a gangster who mixes hot sex with food to an old lady terrorizing a shopkeeper by compulsive squeezing of his wares.
4. Like Water For Chocolate 1992, Spanish
Tita and Pedro want to get married, but Tita has to take care of her ageing mother and is not allowed to marry. Pedro ends up marrying Tita’s sister, but lets Tita know he only married her sister to be closer to her. When Tita is forced to make the wedding cake, the guests at the wedding are overcome with sadness… Tita has discovered she can do strange things with her cooking.
3. The Cook the Thief His Wife Her Lover 1989, English
The wife of a barbaric crime boss engages in a secretive romance with a gentle bookseller between meals at her husband’s restaurant. Food, colour coding, sex, murder, torture and cannibalism are the exotic fare in this beautifully filmed but brutally uncompromising modern fable which has been interpreted as an allegory for Thatcherism.
2. Eat Drink Man Woman 1994, Mandarin
Senior Master Chef Chu lives in a large house in Taipei with his three unmarried daughters, Jia-Jen, a chemistry teacher converted to Christianity, Jia-Chien, an airline executive, and Jia-Ning, a student who also works in a fast food restaurant. Life in the house revolves around the ritual of an elaborate dinner each Sunday, and the love lives of all the family members.
1. Babette’s Feast 1987, Danish
In 19th century Denmark, two adult sisters live in an isolated village with their father, who is the honored pastor of a small Protestant church that is almost a sect unto itself. Although they each are presented with a real opportunity to leave the village, the sisters choose to stay with their father, to serve to him and their church. After some years, a French woman refugee, Babette, arrives at their door, begs them to take her in, and commits herself to work for them as maid/housekeeper/cook. Sometime after their father dies, the sisters decide to hold a dinner to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth. Babette experiences unexpected good fortune and implores the sisters to allow her to take charge of the preparation of the meal. Although they are secretly concerned about what Babette, a Catholic and a foreigner, might do, the sisters allow her to go ahead. Babette then prepares the feast of a lifetime for the members of the tiny church and an important gentleman related to one of them. My apologies for the lack of sound on the clip – it is my first time copying a DVD to youtube.
Notable Omissions: Vatel, Scent of Green Papaya, La Grande Bouffe
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