|A Chef in Love
MPAA rating (or equivalent): PG-13
THIS PICTURE-PRETTY film has probably the best set design I've ever seen, accompanied by excellent cinematography. Together, they give us scene after scene that could be framed. The cluttered rooms look arty, an effect I've always strived for in my own clutter but never seem to accomplish. Unfortunately, unless you like films of gourmet dinners (which apparently many people do; I personally don't "get" that), this is the best thing A Chef in Love has going for it.
The writers seem to have forgotten that in order to have a story in the fiction sense of the word, you must have plot. There are lots of good elements here around which to do plotting, but either they didn't know how to do that, or didn't care to bother. More's the pity. As a result, the film "reads" like a history text.
Just describing the elements superficially makes this sound like a better movie than it is. A man in Paris is given a passel of notebooks left by his mother and her lover, who happened to be the reigning French chef in the city of Tbilisi, Georgia, when the Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries, whom the chef refers to astutely as "little Napoleons," take the country over and turn it into one of the Soviet "Republics." Told mostly in flashbacks from the now-middle-aged son's reading and translating, it is highly colorful.
But we're never given enough reason to care about these people. They are characters without character, without moral cores, so there's nothing to care about. The best example: The chef, apparently because he's the most lauded chef in Tbilisi when he'd just be another among dozens in a more sophisticated city, refuses to flee the country when given opportunities, even though his mistress is being virtually enslaved and forced to marry one of the conquering soldiers. Give humanity a break
I'd never been to Georgia before, either live or via film. For the travelogue and the aesthetic treats, I give this a neutral five points.
Photo © by the film's distributor
© 1997, Jon Kennedy-