15 November 2006

Film Conference Reviews

Mostly Martha (2002) (imdb); directed by Sandra Nettlebeck; starring Martina Gedeck, Sergio Castellitto, and Maxime Foerste; filmed in German with English subtitles

Martha is a chef, completely in charge of her world and everything in it, primarily because cooking is her life. Her fairly tidy world is thrown into disarray by the death of her sister and the arrivals of her 8 year old niece, Lina, and a new Italian sous-chef, Mario.

Watch how food is used in this film, specifically who eats whose cooking. A few other motifs to keep an eye on: the freezer and Martha’s hair.

I really enjoyed this film. The dynamics among the characters sparkled. My favorite was Mario (who couldn’t love Mario?).

This is in negotiation for an American re-make. How that turns out will depend in large part who writes the script and how the story is approached. (edit: the remake, No Reservations, is wonderful (we bought it), but again, not quite as good as the original in its use of those literary motifs that made Mostly Martha such a work of art.)

Trivia: Sergio Castellitto (Mario) didn’t speak German, so he delivered his lines in Italian and then his dialog was dubbed in for the German release. So, when we watch the subtitled version, we’re watching an Italian actor, dubbed in German, and then subtitled in English.

Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) (imdb), directed by Ang Lee, filmed in Chinese with English subtitles; Ang Lee’s first film made in Taiwan

Master chef Chu may be the master of his kitchen, but he struggles at home with his three daughters. The oldest is a Christian, the middle a successful airline executive, and the youngest a university student who works in a fast food restaurant. To top it off, Chu has lost his sense of taste - a disaster for a chef.

Ang Lee has cooked up a delightful film which tells the story of a family growing up, growing apart, and then growing back together as each family-member finds his way.

As with Mostly Martha, watch who eats, who doesn’t, and who cooks for whom. Also pay attention to how meals affect or express things about each character, especially the two protagonists (I’ll let you figure out who they are!).

This was re-made in English and set in Los Angeles as Tortilla Soup, directed by María Ripoll and starring Hector Elizondo and Raquel Welch. It’s at the top of our Netflix queue. I’ll post more after I’ve seen it. (edit: I've seen it - it's okay, but much of the great symbolism and metaphor of meal as communion was omitted, so I wouldn't rate it as highly as the original.)

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