Venice #80 - Menus Plaisirs, Les Troisgros
Updated: Sep 5
An amusing comedy can make us laugh, a compelling drama might even move us. Well, Frederick Wiseman’s latest documentary makes us feel… hungry.
Menus Plaisirs is the quintessential film on cuisine, and Wiseman casts his curious eye on the gourmet craft of the Troisgros Michelin-starred family business.
This time, the “fly on the wall” might want to drift on some delicacies.
From cherry-picking the best ingredients at the market, to symmetrically setting up tables, talking through the best approach to feed the cattle and the optimal humidity when storing all kinds of cheese, every detail is taken care of. After its 4-hour long running time, the viewers feel almost responsible, if not a touch proud, to have become so much more appreciative when the oblivious customers are ordering the right wine, from which you followed the origin from its grape state. In the silent screening room, one could hear the omnipresent noise of tongues licking over their lips, almost devouring the movie with their eyes.
Something that connects all these steps is the extreme care that goes into every single stage to deliver the finest product. Do you see a parallel here? Cooking and filmmaking share several ingredients: a hierarchical system, creativity, craft, equilibrium and aesthetics. And eventually, if properly calibrated, they both produce artworks. So much goes on behind the scenes of a restaurant that often can go unnoticed, and an asparagus spear gets the same attention as a diva on a set. However, Head Chef Michel Troisgros would disagree, dismissing the comparison, saying: "cooking is not Hollywood- it's serious business".
Alfred Hitchcock always wanted to make a non-narrative film about the food chain, from its harvesting in a farm to its consumption in a restaurant, only to end up in the sewers. It seems impossible but, defying space and time, the king of suspense has somehow met the king of realism over a dinner table.
I don't know if this will be the 93-year-old legendary filmmaker's final film, but if so, he would be closing his 60-year-long career with a main course.