Mouthwatering movies: <b>Louise Fresco</b>

Mouthwatering movies: Louise Fresco

In Mouthwatering movies, a well-known person from the food or film world tells us about his or her most memorable, sensual or belly-shaking film scene or food film. This week we talk to a true connoisseur: professor Louise Fresco, who with Helen Westerik wrote a book about the role of food in feature films.

"The best scenes from me are those in which food symbolises reconciliation and catharsis and are thus moving. There are so many of these that I find it hard to choose. La Cena, for example, is beautiful, as is Viridiana or the end of Ratatouille.

Eat Drink Man Woman is one of my favourites. This Taiwanese film is about a Chinese chef, Chu, who has lost his wife and his sense of smell and taste. Every Sunday he cooks a sumptuous meal for his three unmarried daughters as a way of celebrating their family ties and expressing their mutual love. One by one his daughters find husbands and leave the house – as well as the oppressive weekly ritual that was the centre of Chu's family life. At the end of the film, one of the daughters prepares a meal for her father, which symbolises her recognition of his profession and their feelings for each other.

Food in this film functions as a symbol of reconciliation, mutual recognition, individual choices and bridging the generational divide. It is a theme that is not only a Western preoccupation, which I also wanted to show. The story is not just about food. It's also and primarily about cooking, handling and looking at food. The way in which the main character cuts the food is a wonderful combination of suppressed aggression and Zen. Incidentally, I used the image of cutting vegetables as a form of meditation in my novel The Cosmopolitans (in which one of the protagonists is from Asia) before I saw the film. After I saw the film, I thought: it's almost as if the director read my book!

There is no single recipe for a good food scene. Helen and I write in our book how multidimensional food is and how many meanings it can have: betrayal, temptation, reconciliation and much more. I love it when food is integrated organically into a film and doesn't become some kind of food porn where all that matters is the appearance (unless that is the intention of course). From the perspective of my profession, I find it most interesting if, in addition to cooking and eating, an aspect of the food chain is also shown: a market, the supply of food in the city, and how people inspect food before buying and cooking it – which Ang Lee does very well in this film."

About Eat Drink Man Woman

Eat Drink Man Woman is a film by Ang Lee from 1994. The title refers to a Confucian saying about basic human desires. The famous opening scene, in which Chu angrily slices, cooks, fillets a fish and chases a live chicken from the backyard into a saucepan, took a week to shoot.

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