As I finally deleted Ramen Girl from my Netflix "Watch Instantly" queue last night (CLICK HERE for my earlier review of the film), it made me think about better films about food. So here's a list of five of what I consider the best food movies ever made. Be warned, there be spoilers and mouthwatering scenes ahead!
5. Like Water For Chocolate - This movie, which was based on a novel of the same name and directed by Alfonso Arau (who you might know better as the guy who played "El Guapo" in the comedy classic Three Amigos), is a film whose recipes has been stolen rather unsuccessfully by lesser food movies like Simply Irresistible with Sarah Michelle Gellar and, yes, Ramen Girl with Brittany Murphy. Both of the latter films use the main conceit in which a cook's emotions transfer into the food she makes and experienced once over by her diners. None of those copycats was able to match the sheer naughtiness of this pivotal scene though.
4. Babette's Feast - I remember stifling a tear at the end of this film, but it wasn't just because the food scenes were great, the movie is also about selflessness and gratitude. If you haven't seen it, this short YouTube clip doesn't do the whole story justice. You need to see the whole film.
3. Eat Drink Man Woman - This early Ang Lee film features just about the most mouthwatering cooking scenes ever put on celluloid. The story mixed in is about a master chef who's lost his sense of taste (he has a helper who tests his food for him) and his daughters. But oh, the cooking scenes! Watch it and tell me they don't make you salivate.
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2. Ratatouille - A brilliant movie and one of Pixar Animation's best and most-grownup films to date, but there are two scenes that make it one of my favorites. The first is when Remy explains how different flavors elicit different sensations. The screen goes black while dazzling curls of color and light dance to show his delight. It's synesthesia with food! A brilliant way to show how foodies think. The other scene was, of course, when the critic tasted the ratatouille. There's that sudden zoom cut to a flashback scene where we see the critic as a child at his mother's kitchen door, which then cuts back as his pen drops in slow motion. No scene in any movie, food-themed or otherwise, has ever been so beautifully executed. It still resonates.
1. Tampopo - Quite simply the Star Wars of food movies. The film has a main story thread of a single mom who enlists the help of a truck driver to coach her into becoming a better ramen cook. But that's just the tip of iceberg lettuce. The other parts in the movie, though seemingly unconnected, shows vignettes on how food envelops everything in life. Every scene is precious, but this one is especially so since it functions almost as a how-to.