A Bountiful Menu of Cinematic Feasts
NPR’s Bob Mondello Lists His Favorite Film Banquets
Share your own feast day favorite films and food-related movies with NPR's online community.
Nov. 20, 2002 -- In an occasional series on npr.org, NPR film fanatic Bob Mondello offers holiday-themed suggestions for classic movies worth screening. Here, just in time for Thanksgiving, are his recommendations for film feasts.
By Bob Mondello
Refreshment stand snacks are generally a perfectly adequate cinematic repast -- but not always. A bucket of buttered popcorn will satisfy cravings during an action flick, or even a movie that briefly turns its attention to mealtime -- remember Charlie Chaplin cooking his shoe in The Gold Rush? And that deliciously erotic eating scene in Tom Jones? But snack bar fare can seem awfully inadequate when a filmmaker makes food the main course.
Herewith, a few wide-screen banquets that you should probably not see on an empty stomach:
Babette's Feast (1988) – The most mouthwatering movie meal ever served. A 19th-century chef-in-exile rewards the elderly Danish community that has sheltered her for years by preparing the feast of a lifetime. Alas, her deeply religious hosts believe that pleasure should be reserved for the next world and, while they agree to eat the meal, they do their best not to take any pleasure from it.
Tampopo (1985) – The title character sets out to create the perfect fast-food noodle restaurant in Tokyo, while a number of other characters explore culinary delights ranging from grandmotherly produce-squeezing to erotic encounters involving eggs and steak tartare.
Mostly Martha (2002) – Warmly human drama about a tightly wound German chef whose sterile but picture-perfect life is upended when her 8-year-old niece comes to live with her after a family tragedy. The cast trained for several weeks with one of Europe’s finest chef/food stylists so their kitchen work would be persuasive.
Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) – The first scene shows a Taiwanese master chef preparing an awesome, sumptuous banquet (some of the most sheerly beautiful cuisine ever shown on screen) and the intertwined romantic comedies that follow are just as delectable. The plot hinges on the fact that the chef doesn’t know how to communicate with his three daughters except through food, a language they seem not to understand.
Big Night (1996) – Italian immigrants Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub try to bring fine Italian cuisine to a 1950s America that’s more comfortable with spaghetti ‘n’ meatballs. When they hear that singer Louis Prima will be in town, they organize a spectacular feast to show off all their specialties, figuring it’ll change their lives. It does, but not the way they expect.
Like Water For Chocolate (1993) – Magic realism meets a book of miraculous Mexican recipes to create an intense romantic feast. When Aunt Tita’s tears fall into the batter of a wedding cake, all the guests end up crying; when she adds rose petals to a quail sauce, erotic passions get so heated one woman’s clothes burst into flames.
Eating Raoul (1982) – Paul and Mary Bland are a conservative couple who dream of starting a restaurant in swinging L.A. in this delectably dark comedy. After accidentally killing a creepy intruder with a frying pan, they have to get rid of the body somehow, and come up with a, um… delicious solution to their problem.
Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978) – One by one, the world’s finest chefs are turning up dead. And alarmingly, each is dying in a way that seems to have been inspired by the way his own specialty is prepared.
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Browse more of Bob Mondello's film reviews.
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