Like the contemporary The English Patient, A Chef In Love is structured around countless flashbacks and takes pleasure in confusing our sense of time and place. It ultimately becomes apparent that these flashbacks present a love story which takes place in pre-Soviet Georgia, and our chef's female love interest is a member of that country's aristocracy. Both of the chef's passionate romances become troubled when the Communist revolution threatens his prosperity, and he is forced to choose loyalty to one of his loves. This story is recounted in a compilation of old letters and diary entries which have been delved up by the woman's son and the chef's niece.
Originally, the woman's son, Anton, is completely unaware of his mother's past relationship and his parents's past identities. However, in an early flashback we see Anton's father chasing his mother with a knife muttering the name of this chef. This serves to quickly verify an unresolved conflict that Anton becomes eager to uncover. The flavor of this subjective flashback, in which the fleeing mother suddenly becomes a turkey and is slaughtered by her husband, establishes the confusion and complexities packed within this film. Throughout, we are taken by surprise as the narrative jumps from past to present, uncovering new evidence and then addressing the effect that the discovery of it has had on Anton.
This flashback structure also adds to the film's theme of repetition and circularity. For example, the camera commonly lingers over the same entrees and artwork in both the past and the present, creating a sense of timelessness for the film's subject. The settings and other decor in the film are also quite beautiful. However, throughout, the camera's persistently tight frame prevents us from enjoying the grandness of these exotic locations and feasts. This denial of spectacle serves to focus attention more tightly on the complex love triangle and the tension it causes, which is developed up to the last frame of the film.
Unfortunately, this preoccupation with the lovers forces most of the others characters into flat and subservient roles. For example, Anton, although he discovers a whole new side of both his mother and father, is denied the screen time to deal with these issues. Likewise, Anton's father is given just enough screen time for us to realize his complexities, but not enough for us to understand them. The most egregious oversight however, is of Marcelle, the cook's niece, who is not characterized at all, and ultimately serves to merely jump-start the narrative by bringing these diary pieces to Anton.
As a mature romance, A Chef In Love is the most compelling film to come along in a long time (far superior to The English Patient). However, it is almost regrettable to witness so many interesting characters and subplots being neglected for the sake of a single, albeit interesting, story.
Aka Les mille et une recettes du cuisinier amoureux.
O Sole Mio.
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 23rd April 1997
Production compaines: Studio Adam&Eve, Les Films du Rivage, La Sept Cinéma
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Fresh: 6 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Nana Djordjadze
Producer: Mark Ruscart
Screenwriter: Irakli Kvirikadze
Starring: Pierre Richard as Pascal Ichak, Micheline Presle as Marcelle Ichak, Nino Kirtadze as Cecilia Abachidze, Jean-Yves Gautier as Anton Gogoladze, Temuri Qamkhadze as Zigmund Gogladze, Ramaz Chkhikvadze as Anton Gogoladze, Kakhi Kavsadze as Le Président, Guram Pirtskhalava as Platoon, Khatuna Ioseliani as Mme Kollontai, Marina Kakhiani as Secrétaire à la tête rasée, Nino Koberidze as Secrétaire, Shota Qristesashvili as L'ami de ZIgmund, Goga Gvessiliani as Messager, Aleksandr Ilin as L'anglais, Gogola Kalandadze as Paysanne, Elgudzha Burduli as Le grand-père