Saturday, July 6, 2024

Liz Whittemore on Shelf Life(2024) Tribeca 2024

Give me all the cheeses. It’s a phrase I should embroider on a pillow in my home. We have an entire drawer dedicated to cheese in our refrigerator. Spending two years in New Haven, my husband and I had the privilege of eating at a restaurant called Caseus (RIP). Their famous five-cheese grilled sandwich was a taste bud revelation. Tribeca 2024 documentary SHELF LIFE is tailor-made for cheese freaks such as myself.

Tribeca alum Ian Cheney (The Search for General Tso) features an array of cheese fiends from all over the world, like Mary Quicke, a 14th-generation cheese maker in Devon, England, Alisha Norris Jones, a cheesemonger on Chicago’s West Side, equates cheese and decay and death. A continued thread of philosophy seamlessly weaves into each discussion. Cheesemaker Jim Stillwagon describes eating cheese as “a sensorial adventure.” He’s not wrong.

Immersive camera work and fast-paced editing keep the audience engaged throughout. At times, the film feels like those great visits to factories on Mr. Rogers. Footage from Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm features mesmerizing close-ups of both machine and human.

We study the microbiology of cheese. Cheese mites are a thing I didn’t need to know about, but now I do. The science of cheese isn’t something I contemplated before watching. Now, I appreciate the process and the immortality of a thing I love so much. SHELF LIFE is a doc about the art of cheese and how the universal savoring of this singular wonder brings people together. Could cheese bring world peace? Anything is possible.

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