A feast of food on film: Ten Tasty Treats
PUBLISHED: 17:08 09 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:18 13 August 2018
Food has always enjoyed a starring role on the big screen. Arts editor Andrew Clarke casts his eye over the menu before selecting some of Hollywood's most memorable movie meals
Lionel Bart said it best in his musical Oliver!: “Food, glorious food, Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood – Cold jelly and custard!”
Food has always played a major role in the movies from Charles Laughton feasting on film as a corpulent Henry VIII to Errol Flynn spit-roasting a haunch of illicit venison with Olivia de Havilland in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Food on film has offered film-makers a shorthand to show relationships developing – there can be something very sensual about the consumption of food – or to simply illustrate the passing of time. We mark our lives with formal dinners: birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, Christmas and, in America, Thanksgiving.
In the Harry Potter films each academic year at Hogwarts starts and ends with a huge banquet in the Grand Hall. There is something satisfying about these rituals.
But, every now and then, food itself steals the limelight and becomes the star of the picture. Here’s my guide to the greatest moments of Food on Film.
Pixar’s classic animated film about Remy, the French rat in love with high-class cuisine really comes into its own when the feared food critic Anton Ego arrives to sample Remy’s ratatouille and his jaded palate is suddenly rejuvenated and he is transported back to his youth and he rediscovers how he fell in love with food in the first place. The animation is superb, it really captures that sense of wonder and how food can supply such joy into our lives.
Eat Drink, Man Woman (1994):
The whole film, by maestro Ang Lee, is a love letter to good food, lovingly made, but the opening title sequence is a jaw-dropping exhibition of how to prepare Chinese vegetables. Razor-sharp blades are slicing and dicing a hairs-breadth away from the tips of some very vulnerable looking fingers as a variety of raw foodstuffs are chopped in preparation for the pot. The film is a tender look at the extended family of a great chef who prepares the most exquisite lunches for his beloved grandchildren.
Big Night (1996):
This glorious New York indie movie gave Stanley Tucci his first big starring role as one of two Italian brothers opening up their own restaurant. At first business is slow but the business-minded Tucci has faith in chef Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and orchestrates an elaborate VIP dining experience to raise their profile but as always nothing goes to plan.
When Harry Met Sally (1989):
“I’ll have what she’s having,” The gag has stolen the headlines but for true foodies, it is Sally Albright’s micro-managed ordering that is the comedy souffle which makes the humour rise in this classic rom-com. In repeated scenes she drives Billy Crystal’s Harry Burns to distraction with her overly complicated food requirements and her pools of extras ‘on the side’.
Julie and Julia (2009):
Meryl Streep and Amy Adams play food fans separated by four decades. In post-war France Julia Childs, (Streep) wife of a US diplomat (Stanley Tucci again), learns to cook and becomes one of America’s first culinary experts. In 2002 New York, newly married blogger Julie Powell challenges herself to cook her way through Julia Childs first cook-book with hilariously and at times touchingly mixed results.
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984):
Not the first film that leaps to mind when you are thinking of films with a food theme but if you are thinking of an exotic meal then you can’t beat chilled monkey brains being served out of the sliced heads of monkeys or hot boiled snakes tumbling out of the side of a large cooked python. Be careful if you accept a dinner invitation from Indiana Jones...
Lady and the Tramp (1955):
For something a little more romantic, you can’t beat the classic Italian restaurant sequence in this Disney gem. Tramp finally gets to show his sensitive side as he shares a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese with Lady and as they munch on the same strand of spaghetti, from opposite ends, the scene ends with a kiss. Ahhh.
Juliette Binoche teaches Judi Dench, Lena Olin and a group of French villagers what many people have known for years that Chocolate is a tasty cure-all for a multitude of different complaints. She blows in on a breeze, irritates the Mayor (Alfred Molina), befriends Johnny Depp’s band of river gypsies, before moving on out-of-town as the wind-direction changes.
Babette’s Feast (1987):
This Oscar-winner is the ultimate movie for food-lovers. The heroine uses her lottery win to conjure up the most expansive meal for her employers and their neighbours. The piety of this puritan community is thrown into sharp relief as they gorge on the sumptuous meal set before them. This is food as a tasty temptation and even though their plates were left clean, no-one was struck down dead.
Trust, Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar to conjure up something different. Penelope Cruz is a single mum trying to raise a daughter, cope with the ghost of her mother and run a restaurant all at the same time. When a film crew arrives in town she volunteers to feed them while at the same time trying to disguise the fact she has the body of her abusive husband stuck in her chest freezer. She serves up some wonderful food, sings, dances and disposes of a dead body in a busy week.