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Delicious (Delicieux)

Food becomes a proxy for the French Revolution, in this tasty and easily-digestible drama closing the San Sebastian International Film Festival


In late 18th century France, Pierre Manceron (Gregory Gadebois) cooks for the Duke of Chamfort (Benjamin Lavernhe), Both men are terribly proud and self-righteous. Manceron adores his dishes, and he devotes all his passion and creativity to his labour. Chamfort adores eating, and he describes degustation a privilege of the few. Poor people have neither the means nor the ability to enjoy fine food, the aristocrat believes.

Manceron serves his brand new concoction at a pompous dinner that Chamfort holds for other noblemen and women and an equally snobbish clergyman: a potato and truffle patty (more or less resembling a Sainsbury’s pork pie) called Delicious. The guests are outraged because potato is not deemed a fine ingredient. “It’s what Germans eat”, and “you could catch leprosy”, the indignant diners proclaim. Manceron is promptly fired and returns to his rural dwelling.

A middle-aged woman called Louise (Isabelle Carre) urges the sullen and depressed Manceron to join him as his apprentice, offering to pay for his teaching services. But there are several hurdles. Firstly, women were not deemed fit for a labour as sophisticated as the kitchen. Secondly, she’s too old. Thirdly and perhaps more significantly, Manceron has lost his passion for cooking. But Louise can be very persuasive, and she eventually convinces Manceron to restart working, and they open a small inn.

One day, Chamfort decides to eat at Manceron’s. The Duke misses his cooking, having had very negative experiences with other chefs. Manceron and Louise get very excited at the prospect of welcoming such a prestigious guest, despite the humiliating dismissal. They make impressive preparations for the occasion, turning their small garden into an puffed up open air dining area. But their plans go terribly awry, with Louise revealing a very peculiar secret.

In the second half of the movie, Maceron and Louise begin to cook for people of all classes. Their inn becomes a restaurant with multiple tables and a menu with accessible prices. They wish to challenge the notion that the only the upper classes can take pleasure in fine dining, while poor people have to contend with chestnut soup, or starve. Their endeavour becomes very successful, and they soon have a very full house. Revolution starts on the dinner table. Be prepared for a grand finale!

Delicious is indeed a scrumptious movie. A gingerly handmade little treat doused in sugar, much like marron glacé. Very sweet, yet not overpowering. Just don’t watch it on an empty stomach. The elaborate dishes are guaranteed to tease your taste buds. In fact the entire mise-en-scene is fabulous, with an intricate recreation of pre-Revolutionary France. Oh, and don’t watch it if you are a vegan. Butchered mammals and birds are prominently and mercilessly featured throughout. While most people are covered in extravagant wigs, thrills and manifold accessories, animals are naked and plucked. Perhaps us human beings don’t have it so bad after all!

Delicious is the Closing Night film of the 69th San Sebastian International Film Festival. The movie choice was not in vain: the Basque city has a thriving gastronomic tradition, and the Festival has an entire section devoted to culinary cinema. DMovies followed the entire event live and in loco, exclusively for you.

By Victor Fraga - 26-09-2021

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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