Fringe Food

Delectable Free Screenings

  • Tampopo plays Thursday as part of the food + film series

Only a decade ago, the coupling of ‘food’ and ‘film’ was often invariably reduced to one primal concern: “How does film represent food?”

I am reminded of Campbell Scott’s fantastic romp through the lives of fledgling Italian immigrant-restauranteurs Primo and Segundo in Big Night. (“Eh! Fucking guy! Sometimes the spaghetti likes to be alone!”)

‘80s and ‘90s “food films” were nothing if not charming. We laughed. We cried. We might have fallen asleep a few times. And we weren’t sure whether to salivate or to recoil as the final timpano was served. And all this in honour of Louis Prima.

I digress. What I mean to say is, the two terms have today become far more confusingly intertwined.

Today we have Ratatouille, Eat Pray Love, Dirt, Super Size Me, and—though we had no say in the matter—Michael Pollan.

So it is, dear readers, that after a screening of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Food, Inc. or King Corn, you may find yourselves asking entirely new questions.

Questions, perhaps, of a theatrical nature: “Can food perform the same role as a movie star?” Of a social nature: “How can film further food?”Or, most annoyingly to your dearest friends, of a Deleuzian nature: “How is food a becoming-film and film a becoming-food?”

Assuming I have not been ostracized by you at this point, I would like to point out a wonderful new series of screenings that take into consideration all of these, not to mention several other, solutions to that simplest of equations: food + film.

The brainchild of an interdisciplinary faculty working group on Food Studies, this year’s screening and discussion series is evidence to how these questions are manifesting (and being discussed) right on our own campus. The events are sponsored by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies and Society at Concordia (CISSC), and their latest offering—Jûzô Itami’s 1985 classic _Tampopo_—is billed as a “perfect study break.”

Indeed, Tampopo not only cuts through several of the food film clichés of its day, but also drops directly before exams begin, Thursday night. This is the stealthy timing. The Thursday screening leaves your Friday night free for the more comprehensive exam-stress therapy of alcohol-blackout, and several days after to recover. However, after watching Itami’s notoriously idiosyncratic film, you might find yourself indulging in obscure culinary concoctions to unwind instead.

For series coordinator David Szanto, who teaches an undergraduate course in the Faculty of Fine Arts entitled “Encultured Eating,” the study of food runs the risk of becoming “purely intellectual.”

He therefore conceives the film series as a counter-balance. “While the films do make you think, they are also visceral,” he says. “In some ways, they come closer to the lived experience of eating, which is multisensory.

“Though there’s been an explosion of documentaries about food, most of them do not last very long in theatres,” notes Szanto, adding that part of the CISSC’s mission is about connecting with the larger community—in this case, inviting Montrealers to encounter food-themed films in settings more engaging than, perhaps, one’s iPhone or laptop.

“Watching great food films with others is a bit like sitting around the dinner table together,” he says. “You get to hear and feel the reactions of other people through the movie. And for those who can stay, we always strive to engage in a discussion afterwards.”

Kind of like hanging out at the counter of a fast-food noodle shop.

Tampopo / Dec. 1 / 6:30 p.m. / EV-6.720 / Admission is free.

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