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Movie Blog: Food & Wine Film Festival

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(credit: CBS) Jonathon Sharp
Jonathon Sharp is a web producer and blogger at WCCO.COM. He started...
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Growing up there was one movie that could always make me hungry, and I mean hungry – hysterical, fixated, nearly frothing at the mouth. No, it wasn’t Hook, with its imaginary rainbow pudding food fight. And it wasn’t something nutritious and/or exotic, like Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love. It was the Houseguest, which shamefully shoved Big Macs and fistfuls of French fries into the mouths of Sinbad and Phil Hartman.

While I haven’t seen that feature-length Mickey D’s ad in years, I still love when movies make me want to eat images. For anyone else who enjoys that sensation, there’s the Feast for the Eyes: Food and Wine Film Festival, which runs from Oct. 25-28. All the films are slated to show at the St. Anthony Main Theatre; they come in feature and Small Bite portions, documentary and fictional form. The movies are also complemented by food and drink tastings from outfits like Surdyk’s Liquor and Cheese, JOIA Soda and Masu Sushi — better than a Big Mac, no?

Below are a few capsule reviews of lesser-known films by me and WCCO.com’s main movie glutton, Eric Henderson. For a full list of show times, see the Film Society’s website. Single tickets cost $10. Fest passes, $125. Discounts offered to Film Society members. – Jonathon Sharp

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Mugaritz BSO
(Director: Felipe Ugarte, Juantxo Sardon; 72 min; Spain; 2011)
Thursday, Oct. 25; 7 p.m. Minnesota Premiere.

If films are about sight and sound, no one told the creators of the new film Mugaritz BSO. Coming on a little but like a gastronomic remix of Koyaanisqatsi, the film presents the collaborative results of musician Felipe Ugarte and world-ranked chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, who work together to try and tell the story of how Aduriz’s dishes are created through entirely aural qualities. Though their efforts might call to mind the oft-quoted concept of dancing about architecture, the movie is a surprisingly lithe collection of vignettes, sparkling with color and consistently surprising the viewer with unexpected, downright avant-garde textures. Though some might liken the movie to a restaurant that stresses, above all else, plating (especially since Aduriz is the type of chef that will make potatoes look like stones and all but dare his audience to trust his guidance on their food journey). — EH

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Three Stars
(Director: Lutz Hachmeister; 90 min; 2010)
Friday, Oct. 26; 7 p.m. Minnesota Premiere.

If you follow food media at all, you’ll have an idea of what it means for a restaurant to have three Michelin stars. (If that sounds like astrophysics to you, click here.) Three Stars director Lutz Hachmeister doesn’t focus so much on the world’s top-rated, lovely-looking and likely uber-expensive food but on the people and philosophies behind it. There are chefs like René Redzepi, whose restaurant Noma in Copenhagen serves all Nordic cuisine made entirely from local ingredients. Hearing how such chefs think, how they describe and execute their culinary vision is remarkably insightful and rewarding. The movie sometimes calls chefs like Redzepi rock stars. They’re certainly celebrities, but they work way too hard (12-15 hour days) and too intensely to fit the stereotype, seeing them commanding the kitchens makes this obvious. Along with showing the work of chefs from New York, Japan, Spain and France, the movie also considers the Michelin system, a rating system of such prestige that a famous French chef shot himself with his hunting rifle after his restaurant lost a star. Is the system outdated? Is is Eurocentric? Elitist? Something chefs should stress over? You decide. – JS

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Dead Sushi
(Director: Noburo Iguchi; 91 min; Japan; 2012)
Friday, Oct. 26; 11 p.m. Minnesota Premier.

Infectious killer sushi. That’s the terrifying and quasi-edible creature at the heart of Dead Sushi, which follows a tomboy as she battles her way through a Japanese corporation’s sushi party — at one time wielding sushi nunchucks — and into the affections of her hardass father. The movie is hilarious. The characters voice their every thought, making all the gore and guts and jets of blood 37 times more goofy. The humor can be crude, but it’s doesn’t delve into any Visitor Q antics. For the Friday before Halloween, Dead Sushi is some sort of zombi gem. See it. Laugh like hell. – JS

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Now, Forager
(Director: Jason Cortlund, Julia Halperin; 93 min; USA; 2012)
Saturday, Oct. 27; 4:45 p.m. Minnesota Premiere.

Whenever I’m watching a movie about foods for which I don’t personally have a taste, somewhere in the back of my head I hear Goofy’s song from Mickey and the Beanstalk begin playing in the back of my head: “I wanna eat and eat and eat and eat and eat until I die” and mentally play back the image of Morgan Spurlock vomiting a Big Mac out of his car window in Super Size Me. It’s weird, but it’s what gets me through. Morgan could’ve filled a river in my head during the entirety of Now, Forager: A Film About Love and Fungi, a movie whose cleverness begins and ends with its Bette Davis-swiping title but, more detrimentally, features characters obsessed over mushrooms, which are absolutely disgusting and no amount of surprises on my pizza slices have done a thing to change my mind. In the film, married chefs Lucien (writer and co-director Jason Cortlund) and Regina (Tiffany Esteb) have reached a crossroads in their lives together. Their plan to sell locally cultivated mushrooms has left them close to broke with no real hope for the sort of stable future Regina desires. So she swallows her husband’s pride and takes a job as a line cook, a move Lucien regards as selling out. Of the movie’s many missteps, perhaps the most galling is the suggestion that love should take a cue from locavorism. In other words, love the one you’re with, but only because casting your net out into the distance is a waste of energy. – EH

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Trattoria: The Movie
(Director: Jason Wolos; 82 min; USA; 2012)
Saturday, Oct. 27; 7 p.m. Minnesota Premiere.

A trattoria is an Italian restaurant defined by its serving of simple food. Trattoria: The Movie is, as one might guess, a simple one. It takes the cinematic ingredients of comfort food and unfortunately fails at blending them into something that makes the recipe sing. The plot is familiar enough: a young man, who dreams of being a chef, reunites with his father, a successful restaurateur, who’s busy with a new restaurant. The son wants his father to train him, but the father’s reluctant. Family-flavored drama spins about the restaurant while the camera gets sidetracked, eyeing tempting plates of pasta and the son as he makes out with a blonde and bright server. Some performances are solid, but the direction’s timing seems just off, creating moments so overdone that one’s left wondering how the movie’s emotions could have been saved from melodrama. To its credit, Trattoria does sprinkle its fiction with bits of real-life chef interviews. These make the movie rather confusing at first – Is it documentary? Is it fake? – but, generally, they add a hint of gravity. But who is Trattoria trying to please? The movie seems like it’s meant for wanna-be chefs, something to watch in a cooking 101 class. Its moral: being a chef is hard, time consuming and something one shouldn’t attempt without a willingness to shed blood. – JS

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The Vintner’s Luck
(Director: Niki Caro; 120 min; New Zealand/France; 2009)
Saturday, Oct. 27; 9:30 p.m. Minnesota Premiere.

A great wine embodies both ecstasy and despair, the The Vintner’s Luck seems to say. Wine, in other words, is life; and the flavor of the winemaker – his character, philosophy and dirty fingers – is apparent in his product. To illustrate these fantastic claims, the movie uses some fantastic means: A fallen angel tells Sobran, a French peasant, to follow his dream of making great wine. For the purpose, the angel, named Xas, gives the peasant some stems from his garden. The rest of Sobran’s life is then focused on cultivating these heaven vines into the joy of France. Sobran meets with Xas once a year and their relationship eventually flutters into something just short of a sex scene. But while Sobran’s dream might be intoxicating, he finds that tasting it requires time, guts and a familiarity with failure. While watching this struggle, the viewer will have to resist the urge to pop open a red, and take part in the fairy tale. (On a side note, this movie is a blessing for those who like crafting drinking games.) – JS

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Bill W.
(Director: Dan Carracino, Kevin Hanlon; 104 min; USA, 2012)
Sunday, Oct. 28; 2:45 p.m. Minnesota Premiere.

Alcoholics Anonymous might seem like an odd thing to bring up at a food-focused film festival. But despite what you might think of the program, Bill W. is anything but a killjoy. The documentary retells the life of Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA, using recordings of his speeches and letters. Wilson is a wonderful storyteller and surprisingly funny in a self-effacing, old-timey sort of way. The movie’s talking heads, many of which are in AA, are kept in the shadows and are only identified by their first names: an elegant nob to anonymity. The viewer learns of Wilson’s initial struggle with drinking, his getting sober, surviving economic crashes, starting AA, losing everything and even experimenting with LSD. The movie downplays the program’s religious ties, making it more comfortable for those suspect of religion. For those into historical documentaries, Bill W. offers something wonderful: a candid portrait of one of last century’s most influential men. — JS

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