GIVEN the endless fascination for cooking shows in this country (and, presumably, everywhere else) it seems a little surprising that a French comedy about cooking shows wouldn’t go gangbusters. Le Chef (Icon, M), which opened in cinemas here in the middle of the year, didn’t exactly do that but I can’t help but wonder whether it’s not the fault of Australian audiences having certain expectations of what they think a French film should be like.
Director Daniel Cohen has a deftly highenergy touch with his tale of celebrity chef Alexandre Lagarde (Jean Reno, huge in France but also well known abroad for films such as Ronin and The Da Vinci Code) and unschooled culinary genius Jacky Bonnot (Michael Youn), the latter passionate about running his own restaurant but perennially unable to follow the rules that would get him a proper job, let alone enable him to keep it. In fact, he has just been fired from three jobs in quick succession — and, what’s more, his beautiful but long-suffering girlfriend Beatrice (Raphaelle Agogue) is expecting their baby, so unless he can provide her with some security, things look grim.
Jacky gets a job painting windows at an old folks home (and a very flash-looking old folks home it is, too) but in the blink of an eye he’s in the joint’s run-down kitchen, redesigning the menu. It’ll never work, the cooks tell him; the old folk don’t like change.
Well, one thing leads to another and, of course, you knew it would turn into a buddy movie between the two chefs, with the inflexible and grumpy older man having a gradual softening towards the younger upstart and even taking him on as an intern at his restaurant, Lagarde’s. It’s a three-star establishment firmly rooted in cooking styles of the past, and trouble is around the corner because the boss wants to introduce the new fad of ‘‘molecular’’ cooking.
All sorts of slapstick involving exploding food and a Heston Blumenthal-styled Spanish chef ensue and, for anyone fond of cooking shows, there are plenty of knowing gags. The interiors are beautiful, too. A FRENCH co-production of a different sort is
Cosmopolis (Icon, MA15+), based on the Don DeLillo novel of the same name. Starring Robert Pattinson and directed by David Cronenberg, it’s about as far removed from whatever a typical French comedy is as you can imagine. I include it here because Cronenberg usually has interesting ideas, although he can be patchy. Eastern Promises, in 2007, worked well, as did last year’s A Dangerous Method. Pattinson, on the other hand, is a divisive figure — divisive, that is, if your defining terms are ‘‘teenage girls’’ and ‘‘everyone else’’. Here he is his usual wooden self, even if the story had potential: the 28-year-old billionaire trader travelling across town in his limo to get a haircut amid fast-unravelling social unrest and the traffic jam from hell. The story plays out in the car, with everything from business meetings to sexual trysts in the back seat. With someone more gripping in the lead, it might have had more to it. Still, see what you think.
Hope Springs (M) Roadshow (122min, $25.95)
The Samaritan (MA15+) Universal (90min, $27.95)
Moonrise Kingdom (PG) Universal (107min, $24.95)
Total Recall (M) Universal (461min, $24.95)