Les Saveurs du Palais
A must-see foodie flick that opens in Montreal theatres this Friday March 1st..
About a feisty female chef from the Perigord countryside who is called to cook for the French president, based loosely on Danièle Delpeuch and François Mitterand. He wants his grandmother’s cooking, tasty traditional French food, nothing complicated, no superfluous sugar roses. She is perfect for the task, yeshe faces many obstacles with the male brigade in the main kitchen and his entourage heavy on bureaucracy, formalities and prejudice. Nonetheless, she manages to seduce the President with her inspired old-school, ingredient driven, flavour forward, real food with personality. However, her strong character, unconventional ways and disregard for protocol when it comes to the business of good food does not endear her with the stiffs that make up the oiled machine of the Elysée. Rumours swirl. And then, the doctor and dieticians intervene, followed by the accountant.
I won’t give away anything more, not that it really matters; it is much richer than any plot line. The characters are well developed, the story is engaging, there are many layers of nuance and real life moments, food/societal issues and messages.. The sumptuous food just enhances everything, bringing the characters and themes to life in a deep and touching way. Making you salivate the whole way through too! I know François was having a hard time sitting still, wanting to jump out to make himself truffles on toast or go about layering beef with onions and anchovies.
Meanwhile, I was just thinking how this film struck so many chords with me, how it was about soo many important things.. About real food and authenticity all round, simple pleasures, and how meaningful that is. Food that tastes good, with a story. Food that connects you to real people, family and history. Memories. Terroir. Personality over pretence. How so much that is real and good can get lost in politics and business (diets too).
And then in another of their few intimate sit-down exchanges, when the president says to Hortense, ‘Adversity is a spice of life’, I felt like that was a strong message too, considering her predicament, and his.. How she stayed true and kept on going. The whole ‘female chef’ thing could be another topic brought up, be it with respect to food and history, nurture/nature, or just breaking down barriers in the professional world.. It was a part of the story, a woman with all her particular strengths and weaknesses, in a macho world.
This movie was above all just great, so very human, heart warming and funny. I can’t recommend it enough.
I missed the official opening with Montreal en Lumière, I was lucky to see it with Cinémagique, a film club that shows interesting films not necessarily accessible otherwise – check it out!