(director: Frederick Wiseman; cinematographer: James Bishop; editor: Frederick Wiseman; Zipporah Films; 2023-France/USA-in French & English, with English subtitles)
“I love foodie movies, and this one is so good you can almost taste the food while watching the movie.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The 93-year-old American director Frederick Wiseman (“Titicut Follies”/”National Gallery”), perhaps the best documentary filmmaker ever, makes this his 44th film in over 50 years. He embeds inside an esteemed bucolic French restaurant founded in 1930 by the chef’s father Pierre and uncle Jean, that’s held three Michelin stars for more than 50 years (since 1956). The lengthy film, whose title translates to “Small Pleasures,” runs for four-hours, but I found it never boring.
The foodie film takes us to the Michelin 3-star La Maison Troisgros (which translates to “The Woods Without Leaves”), in Roanne, France, the Loir region, that’s owned by the renown Chef Michel Troisgros and managed by his oldest son Cesar. We get to see how smoothly, quietly and efficiently a great restaurant is run. And it was well-worth seeing how carefully they prepare their artistic meals and how their patrons are served so attentively by its expert staff.
The visits by the chef’s sons, Cesar and Leo, to the local marketplaces to buy veggies like zucchini, or to the fish markets, or to an organic cattle ranch, or to a cheese factory, or to the winery, is quite an eye-opening shopping experience.
We also get to witness seeing how the ever-evolving Cordon Bleu school of French cookery is expanding and changing for the better, as Michel adds Far East ingredients such as the aromatic Japanese herb shiso into his traditional recipes.
When it comes to the seasoning, the father and his sons have mildly different opinions on how much seasoning to use, and we see them quietly talking things over to get it right.
After watching a John Dory “rose” of fish petals on a green curry base being prepared, we see it served. Other dishes included their famed salmon dish, a rack of lamb, and frog legs.
It should be noted that the legendary restaurant will cost you plenty of euros.
I love foodie movies, and this one is so good you can almost taste the food while watching the movie.
It played at the Venice Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 12/13/2023 GRADE: A