Movie Review: 'Haute Cuisine' -- 2 stars
"Haute Cuisine" tells the real-life story of Danièle Delpeuch, who was for a time the private chef of former French president François Mitterrand. And here is a movie singularly devoted to the joys of foie gras, truffles and the like, filled with scenes featuring the cooking and discussion of these and other Gallic delicacies.
It's essentially a feature-length cooking show with some biographical details thrown in for good measure. Aficionados of French cuisine, those audience members who relish every moment spent in Le Bernardin and Les Halles, will find their appetites suitably whetted by Christian Vincent's film.
The film offers slim pickings for the rest of us, however. There are only so many menu discussions and kitchen scenes, complete with close-ups on the food being prepared, that one can stand over the course of an hour-and-a-half. The great food movies, such as Stanley Tucci's "Big Night," weave in compelling interpersonal and economic drama, so that the kitchen scenes serve as a complement to the larger narrative forces at play, not the whole shebang.
Here, we watch as Danièle is hired by the Élysée Palace and cooks up a storm, while bonding with Mitterand over their love for authentic delicacies. Flash-forwards find the chef on her next gig, on a research base in Antarctica. But the film doesn't have much to say about the character or the world she inhabits, other than that she doesn't believe in culinary compromise.
In the end, "Haute Cuisine" makes you long for a trip to a real restaurant, where the food placed in front of you is more than a big-screen mirage.