Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“The Hundred-Foot Journey”
Is a Trip to the Kitchen

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Food is the new pornography. Picture it: Zucchini sizzling in a frying pan. Butter melting over squash. Flipping a magically seasoned omelet. Baking the perfect souffle. Stirring a bubbling sauce that’s to die for. Chefs abuzz in the kitchen. Lovers tasting the perfect wine.

Movies about food are very popular these days. Witness Jon Favreau’s “Chef.” The upcoming “Le Chef.” And the current foodie favorite, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” -- which is playing this week at the Tropic Cinema.

Sure, there have been other great movies about food, ranging from “Big Night,” to “Eat Drink Man Woman,” even Disney’s “Ratatouille.”

However, the seminal example of food as sex can be found in “Tom Jones,” the 1963 Tony Richardson film based on the Henry Fielding novel. Therein the rascally Jones (a young Albert Finney) engages in an orgiastic feast with a lusty matron (Joyce Redman), The two devour one course after another with mounting intensity, nibbling on chicken bones, snapping lobster claws, gorging on pears, sucking down oysters.

“The Hundred-Food Journey” is a bit more sedate, but no less sensual when it comes to ogling food. Madame Mallory (wonderfully portrayed by Helen Mirren) is the proprietress of a celebrated French restaurant, but her equilibrium is shattered when the Kadam family opens up an Indian eatery next door. Aside from this territorial dispute (culinary, not geological), we also have a culture clash (“France for the French”), but one that gets settled, as you might imagine, by the taste buds.

Directed by Lasse Hallström (“The Cider House Rules,” “Chocolat”), this is also a rom-com on two differing levels: Madame Mallory (Mirren) and Papa (Om Puri), her sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) and the gifted young Indian chef Hassan (Manish Dayal). The chemistry between the four actors is like the recipe for a deliciously seasoned entrée.

We can ascribe much of this haute-cuisine movie trend to foodies, those yuppie and preppies who seem to worship the culinary gods. They frequent trendy restaurants. Shop at whole food markets. Cook magnificent (and often healthful) meals. Sample fine wines. And revel in watching movies featuring food as an objet de lust.

But beware where all this can lead: High cholesterol … or an encounter with food like the one in “American Pie.”

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