Juxtaposing Two Cultures Preparing Cuisine
THUNDER BAY – Entertainment The beginning to the brilliantly filmed 100 Foot Journey immediately breezes viewers into an active hubbub, polyglot mix of colours resonating in a rhythmic tempo at a Mumbai Market.
Eccentrically enthralling. Bursting with vibrant scenes of faces. Jubilant activity in a market. The camera buoyed above the crowd scanning a moveable feast of foods, spices and artisans wares in abundance.
Certainly its sprawling outreach. Its venue as an international Bazaar dwarfs Thunder Bay’s more relaxed expressions of produce and crafts at our Farmer’s Market. But that’s what makes our pastoral setting in Northwestern Ontario what it represents. A bounty with a more reserved attitude.
Fast-forward the action in the film. Yet not to divulge the Transformation that carries the father Papa (Om Puri) and the Kadam Family away from their homeland of India. In quest of a place to rebuild there lives.
The 100 Foot Journey
Diligently hand preparing their traditional richness in cooking in a new restaurant. On a new frontier. In faraway France. They begin their re-construction of a family business building the Maison Mumbai. With a sculpted front facade of the Taj Mahal.
At the same time they are juxtaposed–a mere one hundred feet across their common road –by a rather stubborn Madame Mallory (Dame Helen Mirren) who covets her very upscale One Star Michelin Restaurant.
She sternly invokes biting tete-a-tete competitiveness attempting to dim their expectations. For she has reigned as the dominant doyen of French taste, dining, and serving with her irresistible passion for France, and its honourable amour of a cuisine likely going back decades.
A cheeky incident occurs even before the Kadams have purchased the grounds of their real estate.
In a scene where Papa is shuffling about with his eldest son Hassan (Manish Dayal) one evening as they scout to invest when in comes Madame Mallory rather boldly, “Bon jour! This is private property.”
Papa, in a polite, distinguished gentleman’s voice, asks, “Then do you own this..?”
Madame Mallory, “No.”
Papa in one of their first convergences replies, “Then, you must be trespassing too.”
However it’s the upbeat pulse of this film’s action that captures one’s heart. Even as two cultures grapple with comprehending one another.
It glistens with a story of going up against odds. Not giving in and coming to appreciate intrinsic values between two neighborly establishments.
Papa’s kin mix and match their labour, and strength, proposing to bring their traditional sub-continent facility in cooking in the breathtaking landscape of Saint-Antoinin-Noble-Val in the Mid Pyrenees in southern France. Founded in the 9th century.
The route to this material becoming a Hollywood film began in June 2013. When Oprah Winfrey was gifted a book by Juliet Blake. Blake presented Winfrey with author Richard C. Morais’ novel, as he coined it, The One Hundred Foot Journey.
Next, Winfrey meshed her compassion for the story with co-producer, associate friend, Steven Spielberg.
Both have exclusive ways with deciphering new film scripts that soon after ooze with expectations. Getting something written, cast, directed, filmed and brought to its fruition on the big screen.
This one conceived– also as first time project– in the creative screenplay written by Steven Knight.
Adapting the novel into what Spielberg has hailed as a piece de resistance treatment. “Steven Knight gave both our Film Director Lasse Hallstrom and Cinematographer Linus Sandgren, as well as Music composer A. R. Rahman, such a copious tableau on which to build the making of this. As well, our cuisine developer with remarkable curried dishes, and cardamom atop things, was the masterful Indian born chef Floyd Cardoz. He certainly knows a thing or two about fusing together two cultures through cooking. It was…is…the backbone…the brazier alight that frames so much in our reels.”
Of course signing England’s bilingual Helen Mirren (Oscar Award Winner in The Queen) and India’s outstanding Om Puri as principal figures represents another significant choice in keeping a compulsive story going. Its richness in theme, the mosaic of its visuals while serving brilliant culinary dishes throughout its story-lines will certainly whet the appetite of film goers.
Canadian audiences will likely note the fine enthusiastic role which Charlotte Le Bon (from Quebec) plays as Marguerite; Madame Mallory’s sous chef.
I liked the fencing and parrying that both Helen Mirren and Om Puri negotiated through beautifully filmed different seasons. Their activity, and perspectives, particularly on a fateful St. Bastille Night are noteworthy.
In talking about his penchant for playing Papa in this film, Om Puri was forthright. “It has really the comeuppance between new ways between a European way in life and that of India’s long established means.
There is besides, and, I like this, there are… the developing touches of parallel Romances, that of Marguerite and Hassan. But, also how Madame Mallory and I as Papa Kadam portray often are stretching away. Then, gently banding back to our appreciation. Empathy for one another. It is a beautiful book by Richard C. Morais. It has become a best seller in India, and, elsewhere now.”
As the film ended I walked the Silvercity Bridge across the River.
It was what the British used to call Sundowner time. Where early evening is transfixed in a magical light. Touches of Mother Nature were gliding on nearby water. Where ducks and loons swam, diving among watery reeds.
It was a pleasure seeing friendly walkers strolling the walkway.
A placid spirit hung in the air with the realization of what beauty pervades our hometown coming back outside after being inside for almost two hours running time with the film.
Where the magic of Cinema had otherwise absorbed and entertained us in this unique romantic comedy.
It will easily become a significant Night at the Movies from this August.
As we carry this story on our lips telling others about this original masterpiece taken from a first-time author’s work.
A true artistic crème de la crème feature set, so well across the Atlantic, in such an original, captivating fairy tale setting.
Showtimes in Thunder Bay
SilverCity Thunder Bay Cinemas
850 North May Street, Thunder Bay, ON
1:30 4:35 7:30 10:15