Delicious film shows how the French used food as a weapon | Islander
In the summer of 1987-88, the cinema where I worked during my school holidays played the Danish film Babette’s feast – the story of a refugee from the Franco-Prussian war preparing a thank-you meal for the austere Danish community that welcomed her, proving to be one of the most famous chefs in France. The film made me both a foodie and a movie buff, and I’ve been a food movie fanatic ever since.
What is a gourmet film? I think of the on-screen marriage of the preparation and love of food embedded in the fabric of a film, like with the sultry Mexican film Like water for chocolate, where the repressed Tita poured out her love for the man she couldn’t have in her kitchen, including a plate of quail with rose petal sauce.
I think of the aging chef preparing a perfect last family meal for his three adult daughters in the Taiwanese film Eating Drinking Man Woman. I think of the giant Timballo, an amalgamation of various pasta dishes baked together in a pie, prepared by brother chefs trying to save their dying restaurant in Big night.
A new title will join this list of foodie films for many with director Eric Besnard Delicious.
Besnard takes us back to the time just before the French Revolution, when gastronomy was appreciated only by the aristocracy, and where food was a weapon in the social game they played. A gentleman’s chef and the meals he served to his guests could make or break a reputation.
The Duke of Chamfort (Benjamin Lavernhe) is very proud of his chef Manceron (Grégory Gadebois) and invites his court rivals to impress them with Manceron’s dishes.
But Manceron made a culinary faux pas by serving them a dish that we could pay for today, a truffle and potato pie, which the Duke’s guests consider to be two ingredients that only the poor eat. Manceron is dismissed from Chamfort’s service and returns to his own family home.
Depressed, Manceron lost his sense of taste and his passion for life, until a woman (Isabelle Carré) came to his door, knowing his reputation and begging to learn cooking alongside him.
As Manceron regains some sense of his old joy in the culinary arts, they breathe life into the family shed.
By exploring the social conditions that were the beginning of the Revolution through food, good food, and especially access to it previously reserved for the rich, Besnard imagines the effect that the taste of culinary imagination on the working poor of the time.
While Delicious is not really a factual historical film, Besnard is a meticulous researcher for his films, and he worked from a factual event, creating the first restaurant as we have known it, a place serving good food. prepared that anyone with the money to pay them, regardless of their class or status, can come and enjoy.
“At the start, I didn’t want to make a film about food at all, I wanted to make a film about the French Revolution, the Age of Enlightenment,” says Besnard.
He explains that a single sentence marked him during his reading, about the creation of the first restaurant, and triggered the narration of the film in his imagination.
“I didn’t know it was an 18th century invention, but I started to understand that it was definitely an Enlightenment idea,” he says, “because someone from a social class bass could provide that subjectivity for everyone, so that everyone had the right to try something, it was definitely something new. “
As Besnard explains, the cuisine is representative of the freedom that lies behind the French revolutionary ethos.
“What I love about cooking is that everyone can try it,” he says, “because it doesn’t have to be expensive to make, to make something good, but you have to take time, you have to put a lot of time into it. “
In the character of Manceron, Besnard constructs the bear of a man with the soul of a poet, the poetry expressed in the kitchen.
In collaboration with the director of photography Jean-Marie Dreujou, Besnard’s camera focuses on the process that the chef uses in cooking, cutting, frying, working the ingredients.
He followed the advice of food historian chefs Thierry Charrier and Jean-Charles Karmann to use authentic ingredients and preparation techniques of the time. Its scenes are separated by beautifully lit tableaux of prepared meals awaiting service, or ingredients sitting awaiting preparation, cinematic versions of still lifes on the walls of museums and art galleries.
“Those scenes weren’t in the script,” says Besnard, “but I didn’t have a lot of money to shoot some of the things I wanted.
“During the shutdown I was looking at artwork and thought to create these scenes where each object is a symbol, so I thought about taking a single day and creating it as an image. film and you analyze every object on the table, that makes sense. “
As Besnard demonstrates in the film, the food was militarized by the aristocracy.
“What came out of my research was the aristocracy showing off through food,” he says.
“At that time, the aristocratic class no longer had a political role because of absolute monarchy, it almost no longer had a military role, it had to exist in one way or another and therefore it was the party, she hunted.
“It was sort of impressing and eating with the eyes and this story is about a man who becomes an artist because he offers something, he creates something new.”
Besnard suggests that this teaching of new ideas and this feast for the eyes be the same artistic culinary spark that today makes us fall in love with our favorite chefs from television on the small screen.
Delicious is in theaters now.