Special article for the festival of Cannes: Our selections of five movies which make people think about the issue of nutrition and agriculture sustainability, which are at the same time funny and exciting. I’m sorry for the “French” selection, but if you have more ideas, don’t hesitate to comment!
The cinema, mirror of our societies, our humor, our fears, our vision of the future, is a very pleasant way to think about what’s in our dishes and in our fields!
1. The Grande Bouffe / Blow-Out
Italian-French movie of 1973, with Marcello Mastroianni, Philippe Noiret e Michel Piccoli. The story is simple, but particularly shocking: four middle aged men meet in a villa in France for a “gastronomic seminar”. In the end it turns to be a meeting with death, where four people, tired of their lives, gorge themselves till death.
When it was released, the movie caused scandal, booed at Cannes. Nevertheless it was a real success in the cinema. Food reflects here the emptiness of our lives and the insanity which lies in our societies. Tough movie, but very interesting – and very modern in its critic. I’ve seen it three years ago in a very beautiful place (the gardens of Villa Medici in Rome) and this helped me to bear the toughness of the movie.
A movie to watch for sure, but a small advice: don’t eat before and after the movie. J
2. Babette’s feast
Wonderful Danish movie released in 1987. It received a nomination at Cannes Festival of the same year, in the section “A certain glance”. It didn’t win any prize, but it received the Oscar as best foreign movie in 1988. The story: Babette, a famous French cook escapes from the Paris repression of 1871 and seeks refuge in a small village in Denmark. Two old Lutheran observant sisters, who privilege silence and simplicity also during meals, host her.
After having won the lottery she decides to use the money to thank them and the citizens of the village, by preparing them a French meal. This movie shows that the cooking is one self’s gift, one of the best gift one can offer to beloved people. During the meal, the members of the village, who had promised themselves to keep silent, start sharing smiles and the meal soon becomes a real moment of joy and sharing. This movie shows how the meal can become a moment of harmony and a valuable form of art.
3. The Wing or Thigh
French cult comedy, released in 1976 brings back together two of the biggest comic actors of that period: Louis de Funès and Coluche. The story: the director of a gastronomic guide – Mr. Duchemin – starts a war with his son against the junk food, personified by Jacque Tricatel, director of an agroindustrial farm, who is buying several restaurants.
This movie is broadcasted every year by the French television and is above all a real critic of nowadays society in several countries. As a consequence, the French government has developed, in 2014, a “homemade” logo in order to help consumers to distinguish those restaurants which prepare the menu by themselves, with fresh products, from those who just warm up industrial dishes or use preparation ingredients.
Two scenes are particularly interesting:
- Minute 55: Mr Duchemin is trapped by a restaurateur who forces him to eat junk food, of bad quality and without taste, which intoxicates him.
- At the end of the movie: the scene at the factory, where there are some scenes which exaggerate some of the industrial processes (a chicken reconstructed from a cream), but when one thinks about it, he realizes that it is not so far away from reality…
The movie also reflects the sexism of that period of time – and this is even more real in the actual world of gastronomy: some women, who would be perfect as critic or head of cooking, are relegated to secretaries.
4. 99 Francs
French movie released in 2007. It is a bit exaggerated and covered with black humor from the world of advertising. The movie presents a lot of profligacy (cocaine, sex and hallucinations), but it is also a fair critique to the food marketing. It shows a universe in which the sweetest, fattest and industrial products are sold as if they were just been prepared by tender grandmothers, eaten by sexy girls on the beach.
Before the credits, a message reminds that 10% of the money spent for advertising every year would be enough to halve hunger in the world.
No prize for this movie at Cannes, apart from the prize to Jocelyn Quivrin, as best male actor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gn8yDcnuDVM
5. Soylent Green
Science fiction movie, released in 1973, the main actor is Charlton Heston. It has become a cult movie. New York in 2022 – inspired by the novel Make room! Make room!, by Harry Harris – is facing several problems: overpopulation, hunger, big inequalities between rich and poor, violence. People ingest pills, produced by the Soylent Society, which are rationed by public power, to feed themselves: long queues with mothers and children who cry, aggressions, violence and black market to eat traditional food from the past. Fruit and vegetables have become luxury, negative atmosphere till the final desperate and shocking conclusion of humanity.