A certain cinematographic taste for the culinary world

A certain cinematographic taste for the culinary world


Like what is cooked on reality TV, on social networks or in series, a culinary scent has been spreading in cinemas for some time. For now, it is the release, on November 8, of The Passion of Dodin Bouffant by French director of Vietnamese origin Tran Anh Hung, which France is sending to the Oscars notwithstanding the harsh reviews it has received, undoubtedly counting on on the virtues of this Epinal image abroad. Then, Menus-Plaisirs. Les Troisgros by the most Francophile of American documentarians Frederick Wiseman, who invites us once again, from Wednesday December 20, to visit the kitchen and dining room.

The two films are a priori very different. Here a fiction interpreted by Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel, which brings to the screen, by playing on the magnetization between food and the flesh, the character of a gastronome invented by the novelist Marcel Rouff in 1924 ( The Life and Passion of Dodin Bouffant, gourmet , reissue Menu Fretin 2021). There a documentary which chronicles the rituals, respect for the product, and the quest for excellence of one of the rare French restaurants with three stars on the counter for fifty-five years.

Taste and spirituality

Two points, however, bring them together. Firstly, the fact of having been made by filmmakers who adopted and even more loved France without being native there. Then, the gourmet celebration of an art of living, starting from cooking and eating, which is part of the treasures of national culture, such as Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) and Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) in laid the foundations. This epicurean philosophy infuses the vast majority of films revolving, directly or indirectly, around cooking. The Wing or the Thigh by Claude Zidi (1976), Tampopo by Juzo Itami (1985), Babette’s Feast by Gabriel Axel (1987), The Chinese Feast by Tsui Hark (1995), Vatel by Roland Joffé (2000), The Taste of Life by Scott Hicks (2007), Les Saveurs du Palais (2012) by Christian Vincent: so many titles that stand out in gastronomy – sometimes to the point of priesthood ( Vatel ) and epiphany ( Le Festin de Babette ) – an aesthetic of taste and spirituality.

Going against this majority trend, a band of slovenly people and bad sleepers continue to shake these noble foundations of companionship. Food, far from being celebrated, becomes the bad object, the flatulent symptom of the consumer society, the corrupt instrument of our poisoning, even of our planned death. Unsurprisingly, we find the two champions of the category in the 1970s – a radical decade. These are La Grande Bouffe by Marco Ferreri (1973), and Genesis of a Meal (1979) by Luc Moullet.

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