Five Slices of Cinematic Cuisine
Marlon Brando’s waistline excluded, blending the two arts of cinema and cuisine has provided many wonderful moments. Whether it’s the brotherly BBQ bond of Stand by Me’s fireside scene or the warm coital embrace of Jim’s American pie, food and film are often a recipe for success. The fast food film gluttony of Hollywood has made many of us fat but thankfully cinema is an international menu. China serves sumptuous banquets of celluloid alongside the spice of Bollywood, one of the world’s largest film industries. So, to coincide with The Skinny's January issue's Food and Drink Special, let’s take a look at some of the finest slices of culinary cinema from around the world.
This reassuring comfort food signifies family to Chinese. Perfect then to disturbingly invert in Fruit Chan’s deliciously dark Hong Kong fable. Here they wrap around a terrible secret filling which keeps an ageing soap star burning brightly, but unlike Dorian Gray she will wear the consequences publically. There is a sinister seduction to the greedy fashion in which Miriam Yeung slurps them up, and their slight crunch is truly disturbing once the truth is uncovered.
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
Continuing down this dark path we have a film that takes food fetishism to its logical extreme. In the surreal nightmare of a nouvelle cuisine setting, a ripe Helen Mirren forces her gangster husband to consume his own crime. They say that revenge is a dish best served cold but spit roasted seems to do the trick just fine.
Raging Bull (1980)
You fuck my wife?! I’d be more worried if I stole the man’s sandwich. Raging Bull is a story of calories on both sides of the lens. Behind it De Niro gained over 60 pounds in a pasta marathon around Italy; in front of it La Motta’s flabby stomach expands, a metaphor of his slipping control. This is true method, his laboured wheezes an authentic reality. Bobby eats his way into genuine character rather than hiding under the layers of prosthetic fat as many modern actors would.
Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
Food and family walk hand in hand in any culture. Ang Lee uses this bond to tie together a disparate group of relatives in this wonderful Taiwanese film. The opening scenes of the father’s elaborate culinary preparation plays like MasterChef on performance enhancing drugs. His character is reflected in the skill and precision of his work. A fish is stripped to neat base parts in a matter of seconds, a heavy cleaver slices vegetables with a surgical intricacy. If only his family relationships could be managed with such control.
Ann-Margret was a teen pin-up throughout the 60s, dangling off the arm of many a matinee idol, including Elvis. How then did she find herself writhing around in an explosion of baked beans in Ken Russell’s rock opera? In my mind it’s her finest moment and a beautiful juxtaposition. I like beans, they keep me grounded. Slathered around a champagne bottle wielding fallen beauty queen in thick black eye shadow and little else, I like them even more. It’s a frighteningly erotic image... isn’t it??