‘Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.’ So orders Peter "Fat Pete" Clemenza in The Godfather. Food in film can be more than just nutrition. It’s important. Whether symbolic, romantic, sexy or just downright sumptuous to behold, films with edible appeal will make you leave the cinema craving more than just popcorn.
1. JULIE AND JULIA (2009)
Never trust a thin chef. So Meryl Streep gave greater credibility to her portrayal of chef Julia Child, by putting on 15lb while filming. She didn’t care…she was enjoying herself too much. Streep also spoke enthusiastically about the gorgeous array of food on set that was ‘a reason to take the job.’ There had to be a lot of dishes created, to replace any disasters…so the film crew were well-fed and very happy! Director Nora Ephron also insisted that actors had to eat the food – not simply pretend.
2. BABETTE’S FEAST (1987)
The film was based on a story by Isak Dinsen, the pen name of the difficult, fascinating and eccentric Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke. Much has been made of the film’s symbolism, particularly the religious significance. For example, a close-up of a cod hanging on wooden racks represents food that poor Danish people might eat but also, fish represents Christianity (Feeding of the Five Thousand, anyone?) Jungian psychologists also love to analyse it.
3. TAMPOPO (1985)
Why make a film about noodles - a ramen-western? Director Jûzô Itami (who committed suicide in 1997) had a perfectly logical explanation: 'When Japanese talk about noodles they get very passionate… you might think rice is the most popular food in Japan, but I can't see me making a movie about rice.' He had one regret: not including a warning notice, particularly for American viewers. Not about sex or violence, but to explain the loud slurping noises the characters make. Far from being rude, such uninhibited enjoyment is considered desirable in Japanese society.
4. RATATOUILLE (2007)
Production Designer Harley Jessup found the food element of the film a major challenge. To make it look real rather than grotesque and hyper-real, many involved in the film’s design had cookery lessons, photographing as they went along. Professional chefs also cooked dishes as examples and Thomas Keller, the chef at French Laundry restaurant, made the ratatouille that Remy the rat serves to food critic Anton Ego.
5. BIG NIGHT (1996)
For actor and director Stanley Tucci, the film that took a decade to bring to the screen was a labour of love. Food is a motif throughout. Even the Pilaggi brothers are called Primo and Secondo - Italian words for the first and second courses. Tucci was lucky that his mother is Deborah DiSabatino, a food stylist who helped the food look sumptuous on screen. It really was a family affair, as DiSabatino, one of his sisters and his father all appear in the film.
So settle down foodie film fans, pour a glass of wine and devour one of these. What would Julia Child say? Why, what she always said of course: Bon appétit!