I admit, despite the chick-flick trappings, I am excited about Julie & Julia (and not just because Julia Child is my namesake). I studied film for a while, so a good food sequence in a movie that can make my mouth water is a thing to behold. Both film and food can be wonderful, disastrous, or bring out our deepest emotions. I rarely get a chance to bring the two sides together in real life, so I’m taking this opportunity to discuss a few of my favorite food-in-film moment (in no particular order and beware Spoilers!!):
1. Tampopo (1985) dir. Juzo Itami – An ode to the humble noodle and the amazing ways food can be center in our lives. It’s part Spaghetti Western, part sketch comedy, part film spoof. The main story focuses on Tampopo, a widowed noodle shop owner who is taught by a mysterious stranger how to serve the perfect bowl of noodles. In the meantime, we learn an important lesson of respect your bowl of noodles and how an egg yolk can be strangely erotic.
2. Goodfellas (1990) dir. Martin Scorsese – Yeah, it’s not exactly a food movie per se, but food does play a pivotal role throughout. Heck, Henry Hill’s downfall is practically brought about by rushing around while trying to cook an Italian meal for his family. Never has the task of stirring the gravy been so tension-packed. Plus, the scene where Henry and his cronies make supper in prison, with the infamous garlic sliced so thin, it just melts in the pan. Yummm…robbery and murder never tasted so good.
3. Big Night (1996) dir. Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci – This is a heartbreaking movie that focuses on two brothers running a small Italian restaurant trying to rescue their failing restaurant. With the promise of the famous trumpet player, Louis Prima, making an appearance, the brothers plan an extravagant and delicious meal. I won’t spoil the ending, but even though there lots of delicious food throughout the movie, the most meaningful scene is at the end, when one of the brothers prepares and shares a simple omelette with his brother and their waiter. This gesture means volumes at the end of the movie and shows how food can both break people down and bring them together.
4. Ratatouille (2007) dir. Brad Bird – I love Pixar movies and I’m constantly amazed at the level of precision and realism they bring to their movie. For Ratatouille, they even brought aboard Thomas Keller to advise on the appearance of the food design. Even more impressive than the actual look of the food is the way the food experience is portrayed. When the dreaded food critic Anton Ego sits down to taste the titled dish; all of his pretensions fade away and he is taking back to a warm and happy moment in his mother’s kitchen. What a lovely way to show a diverse audience how important food can be. I imagine a new generation of foodies was born with this movie.
5. Marie Antoinette (2006) dir. Sofia Coppola – While this movie is not the best of the bunch as far as plot or acting (who thought that Kirsten Dunst could pull this off?), its visuals are so striking and downright pretty, it’s hard to resist its charms. The famous shopping and dessert sequence set to “I Want Candy” is hypnotizing, I dare your mouth not to water at the sight of the fluffy, whipped creamed, sticky, towering desserts and the many, many glasses of champagne.
6. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) dir. Mel Stuart – What kid didn’t want to live this movie?? I still daydream about eating a buttercup like Gene Wilder did. One day, science will create a snozzberry and hopefully the lickable wallpaper to go with it. The room where you can literally eat everything? A three-course meal in a stick of gum? From the first I saw this as a kid to now, I still get giddy at the thought of all of that candy, all for me!
There’s so many more I could talk about, feel free to list some of your favorites below. Maybe I can sneak some good cheese and a glass of wine into the movie on Friday?