Friday, January 29, 2010

Movies for Foodies

Eating as a focus in the movies is a fairly recent development, according to Paula Marantz Cohen in her article "Eat Drink Actor Director" in The Smart Set:
The recent film, Julie & Julia, is an index to how far we have come, not only in our culinary evolution but in our cinematic one.... It is hard to think of an American movie before the 1960s that concerned itself with food... .Not until the 1960s did food begin to be directly represented in movies. Julia Child’s televised approach to cooking seems to have augured the change.
Cohen discusses several movies with great scenes about food.

My all time favourite eating scene is from the 1963 movie Tom Jones. Running for over three minutes, the characters say nothing whilst slurping and caressing their way through increasingly luscious, symbolically aphrodisiac food.

They become more and more lascivious with their delectation and end up in the bedroom. Compared to today's movies, it seems a bit tame, but hasn't lost its sex appeal. Any movie that can keep the audience's interest for nearly four minutes with no one speaking is worth a look. The prototype for food porn!

Completely different, the great diner scene in Five Easy Pieces (1970) satirizes the rigid menu policies ("No Substitutions") of a few decades ago - those days when the establishment was more important than its customers.

Jack Nicholson's character tries to order a side of toast - they don't do sides - so he tries "hold the..." to get only what he wants. As Cohen says, he deconstructs a sandwich. He also may have contributed greatly to the more lenient policies in most restaurants today.

Of course, neither of the older movies is so postmodern a meta-movie as Julie & Julia - being as it is "quintupply " about food, learning about food, writing about food, learning about food through the original writing about food and writing about it. Just what I said - quintupply! It's a wonderful movie, especially because of Meryl Streep's rendering of Julia Child - she's so incredible.

So Bon Appetit! Here's to food in the movies at a theatre near you.


Ciss B said...

Food did play a huge part in those movies, but also in Babette's Feast?

Dorothy said...

Very interesting post, I'll be back..

Dorothy from grammology

ChrisJ said...


Yes, the article had quite a lot about Babette's Feast. It is probably the quintessential food movie, but I never really liked it for some reason (hiding from the movie gods!).

ChrisJ said...


Thank you - glad you enjoyed it.