Monday, September 15, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey (Movie Review)

Opening market scene is chaotic and colorful as a young woman and her son run after a seller with a basket of dark colored balls; when she finally arrives where he's settled to sell his goods, there's a bunch of other women trying to buy the items, which we learn later are, sea urchins. As the mother argues with the others and the shopkeeper watches the fights unperturbed, the young boy cups a dark ball in his hands and breathes in the fragrance. He puts his fingers in, scoops something out, and eats. The shopkeeper says, "Sold. To the boy. He knows" From this cryptic beginning The Hundred-Foot Journey is a fast moving feast of color and scenes that filled all my senses. It brought me to tears too; not tears of sorrow but tears echoing a deep and unspoken understanding about human cultures that is woven into all of our DNAs. The Hundred Foot Journey is about a clash of cultures - French and Indian - that ends up being a great movie for the entire family. If you can only see one movie this year, this is the one. Don't miss it. In the words of Marguerite in the movie, I it is "incroyable" (incredible, marvellous). 

The Hundred-Foot Journey is based on the book by Richard Morais. The movie is filled with memorable quotes and I want to see how many, if any, are in the book which I've yet to read. Here are some of my favorites from the movie.
"Food is memories." That's one of the things the young boy learns from his mother although Hassan (Manish Dayal) is the one who articulates it. 

One of the best pieces of conversation is in the opening scenes when Hassan is interviewed at Rotterdam prior to entry into the county. Moments of humor are blended in beautifully with the underlying implications of what it means to be a refugee.

Officer: Occupation.
Hassan: Cook.
Officer: "You mean kitchen porter?"
Hassan: No.
Officer: "Qualification papers."
Hassan: "I have greaseproof papers - samosa?" (presumably samosas he's cooked.)
"They have their own food, Papa. It is called French cuisine. They don't eat Indian food." (one of the children says to the father when the family leaves London and drives through Europe looking for a place to settle).

"They don't eat it because they don't know yet about it." Papa (Om Puri)

"Madame, asking for a discount doesn't mean I'm poor. It means I'm thrifty." Says the father (Om Puri) to the French restauratear Madam Mallory (Helen Mirren)

"They're not just in books. Five sauces. You must learn to bring then into your heart and into your pots." Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon)

"What is the last stanza of the La Marseillaise, Jean-Pierre?" ".. blood of the impure blood will irrigate our fields..." "but the words Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite are also a part of the song ... " Madam Mallory. (La Marseillaise is the national anthem of France and Jean-Pierre is indignant that his boss would think he doesn't know it. He has just set fire to the Indians' restaurant in the hopes of driving them out.)

"In this restaurant, we don't serve an old tired marriage, we serve a passionate affair." Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren)

"This is the BEAST that must be fed twice a day. What does it like? Innovation. Innovation. Innovation."
That's how Hassan is introduced to one of the finest restaurants in Paris. Hassan is the young chef (or rather cook, as he prefers to refer to himself) whose cooking was given two Michelin stars.

True, lots of things aren't realistic but hey, this is a movie. I like suspending my disbelief once in a while to enjoy our creative arts :) The photography of the food is breathtaking as is the scenery.  The music by A.R. Rahman is another wonderful addition.  I am glad my dentist convinced me to see this movie; it was a great family treat as all his kids (boys and girls pre-teens) enjoyed it tremendously.

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