Monday, April 30, 2007

Food on Film

Marcel Proust can have his madeleines, I have food on film. I found myself thinking the other day about films where food is integral to the story and it made me hungry. So I have come up with a list of films where food and eating is a key part of the film. This is a work in progress so feel free to add your own suggestions. I have confined my list to narrative films. This of course eliminates the best food film- Baking Bread a documentary by my favorite Sicilian, Rose Spinelli. Please check it out.

Here is my list by cuisine. The films, as well as the food, should be good.

Soul Food- The title says it all.
Diner- It’s ABOUT the roast beef sandwich.
Dinner Rush- Just like working in a popular restaurant. Directed by a man who owns a restaurant.

Eat Drink Man Woman-Directed by Ang Lee. Tortilla Soup is the much inferior re-make.

Mostly Martha- Another film set in a working kitchen.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding-This film only made my list because of the food, Somehow Zorba the Greek didn’t seem to fit.

Babette’s Feast -French food, Danish film.
Chocolat- We can't forget dessert.

Big Night - The sine qua non of food films. Everyone involved with the film must have been a foodie. This is a great film for lots of reasons, but none better than the line, “The pasta- sometimes she wants to be alone.” (Say it aloud with an Italian accent.)
The Godfather - One could argue the film is about food. Count how many references to food there are vs. how many mentions of the “mafia?” Also, anytime someone is killed and the next line is “Leave the gun, take the cannoli,” you know the film is about food.

Lost in Translation - Perhaps a stretch, but the film so immerses us into Japan, that you have to include it. Also, the scenes where Bill Murray shoots the commercial for whiskey are priceless. I hope my directorial manner is better than that commercial director. Also, how different would U.S. culture be if we could advertise for hard liquor on TV? Dale Earnhardt Jr. for Jack Daniels anyone?

Like Water for Chocolate- You will be hungry and amorous after seeing the film.

Local Hero- A wonderful film. You really get a sense of how other cultures look at the land and animals. Peter Riegert brings an injured rabbit to his inn. The next time he sees it it’s on his plate as Lapin a La Cocotte.

I want to add my own madeleine to this list. The In-Laws with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin.
There are a lot of food scenes and references- the dinner when the two families meet, (tse tse flies with beaks), Vince and Shelley driving backwards down the road as Vince reminisces about a chicken salad sandwich on a hard roll with a large orange juice ‘You know the grande?’ The Guacamole Act of 1917. But the food scene, to me, is the Pea Soup scene.

After Arkin (Shelley) has been chased down the street (but before he learns how to serpentine) and Falk (Vince) are eating in a diner. Shelley has ordered split pea soup but isn’t eating it. Vince takes some and says, “A little greasy but very good. Crumble up some crackers to absorb the grease,” You need to see it.

I cannot eat pea soup without thinking of Vince and Shelley and my dad.



PeterH said...

I can't help myself, but it's killing me that I didn't add Bill Murray's line from Lost in Translation, "I don't want all that pasta." His character is talking to his wife on the phone and out comes the line.

In my mind it is a companion line to "The pasta, sometime she wants to be alone." (For all the dumb Americans who need a meatball with the spaghetti.


Zep said...

"Delicatessen", "My Dinner with André", "A Private Function" from Europe and "Fried Green Tomatoes" and "Coffee and Cigarettes" from the US?

PeterH said...


Good additions. Delicatessen was on my list but I took it off for some reason. My Dinner with Andre- of course. I am not a fan of the film Fried Green Tomatoes, but another good one. Coffee and Cigarettes- I love Jim Jarmush, but I was operating in a no-smoking environment. I like the Jack and Meg White scenes and Iggy Pop and Tom Waits.


susanna said...

Hi Peter,love your post. I could just picture the intense feeling in Big Night - with the pasta - and Big Fat Greek Wedding (story of my life), anyway...
follow this link check out this film _ I hope that it is easy to find in english. It is extremely food oriented and very "aromatic". On a cultural note, it shows the life of the Greeks from Asia Minor (in reality a long,sad story..). hope you like it.
keep up the good work.
your post felt like "comfort food"!!

PeterH said...


Thanks for the comments. I will check out that film.


blindeh said...

They have been having commercials for hard liquor more recently.

Got a little Captain in you?

Also Hennessey, Tanqueray, Jim Beam, Grey Goose, and a whole bunch of others have had commercials.

None using famous people though, that I know of.

PeterH said...


You are correct- maybe just cable not broadcast TV, I don't know, BUT I need to direct one of those. I can see myself doing a Grey Goose spot.


PeterH said...

My Columbia colleague SueM e-mailed me and suggested Tampopo- a great 1985 Japanese film. That's one for her.