Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mondocurry NYAFF Report vol. 5: A Remorseful RECIPE

The more I think back on tonight’s screening of THE RECIPE from Korea, the more puzzling it seems…even more so than some of the festival’s most experimental films. The movie finds itself in so many different modes, it’s dizzying: a comedy, a fast-paced exhaustive investigation with a reporter in the lead, a tragic story of unrealized true love, and even a ghost story.

The movie’s most unique element is its passion for food. While the titular recipe for a legendary tofu stew is sought after, its origins are uncovered with a National Geographic documentary’s level of labor over painstaking details. However, the movie’s most prominent aspect is really its telling of a heartbreaking love story.

I was with the story at the beginning when the tall tale of a dangerous serial killer being distracted to the point of capture by a delicious tofu stew was being constructed. I wanted to know more about what lead the murderer to come into contact with the fabled cullinary concoction. The focus shifts, however, to the particulars of the stew’s recipe and its creator in a way that bogged me down after a while. This angle reveals a cultural reverence for food that is a prominent nature of Asian cultures, and is unlikely to come through in any major films here. When you do notice the story behind each of the ingredients, it helps you to appreciate the uniqueness of the film a bit more.

In fact, I was ready for a high spirited tale of gastronomic excess to get my stomach rumbling. I’m not sure how much the film will actually make audiences hungry. Despite the film’s attention to the utterly scientific process by which the stew came into being, there are hardly any scenes of anyone eating!

This frustrating fact could fit together with that very pronounced element of tragedy, which doesn’t quite appear until rather late into the film. It is extremely sentimental to the point where I would recommend the film first and foremost to fans of the forlorn. Otherwise, proceed with caution. The final line of the movie may end up pushing those who are more cynical than syrupy to their breaking point.

For now, I wait like Chelios for an electric shock to the heart from any or all of the three Korean suspense films that are on tomorrow’s agenda: THE UNJUST, HAUNTERS, and BEDEVILLED.

Remember, I’m looking for YOUR comments on FOXY FESTIVAL!

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