What starts out as a seductive love story develops into a peripatetic psychological thriller well served by a witty script and infused with an intriguing menu of subplots that lead us into the bizarre world of the superrich – with lashings of food and property porn.
Shannon’s Frank is the kind of man most women desire: strong and masculine yet sensuous and vulnerable, his desire and protective obsession for Lola resonates in every scene. As Frank bears his soul for Lola without ego or rancour from his romantic past, he channels his masculine jealousy into a passion that ultimately makes him excel in the bedroom – and in the kitchen, as one of Las Vegas’s top chefs. And soon he’s much in demand as his culinary skills give him the edge in a game of intrigue. Poots’ Lola is a flighty and fluffy female who remains an elusive dark horse right until the final denouement, and even then we’re unsure of her motives. Matthew Ross cooks up a set of authentic characters in this exciting and unpredictable feature debut.
Based on Karen Blixen’s 1950 short story, originally set in Norway, but transposed here to 19th Century Jutland by Franco-Danish director Gabriel Axel explores the relationship between spirituality and sensuality, in the microcosm of a small, windswept coastal village, governed in totality by a stern Lutheran pastor and father to two beautiful women; the quintessence of stifled austerity.
But Axel’s austere, minimalist, and exquisitely beautiful piece is set in a time and a place where there was little to get excited about- yet the responses and reactions feel real. It’s another film about frustrated lives – and family restrictions, where preparing food becomes both a loving act and an outlet for repressed feelings. Nothing is forced by plot. It all unfolds naturally and unhurriedly, but so juicily until the final denouement.
Frustrated love is also the theme of Alfonso Arau’s romantic drama. Based on Laura Esquivel’s debut novel the film explores how a young girl channels her pent up desire into food. Unable to marry her lover Pedro, due to family pressure, cooking literally becomes a labour of love for a woman unable to escape her emotionally fraught life.
Mexican cinema is unique in melding a quirky supernatural playfulness with burning carnal desire, seen recently in Rocha Minter’s Tenemos La Carne (out next month) and Amat Escalante’s La Region Selvaje (The Untamed). Here Esquivel uses magical realism to suffuse to ordinary with the outlandish in a love story inflamed by painful passion.
After the pent-up passion of LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE Ritesh Batra’s debut feature is a feelgood riff on neglected love. That of a housewife in modern Mumbai, where the well known ‘dabba’ or lunchbox courier system is legendary for its reliability in delivering the midday meal. With echoes of The Go Between, a punka walla’s mistake results in a sweet-hearted romance that ignites when lonely wife Ila’s lunchbox for her husband ends up on another man’s desk. Exploring a range of nuanced emotions, Batra’s elegantly-paced and often humorous narrative unfolds at leisure, suffused with charm and well-observed detail of its contemporary Indian setting. THE LUNCHBOX showcases some of India’s finest contemporary acting talent in delightful performances from Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi) and Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Gangs of Wasseypur) not to mention a luminous Nimrat Kaur.
Tilda Swinton plays another frustrated housewife – although she’s extravagantly glamorous and elegantly discrete here in Luca Guadagnini’s deliciously sumptuous gastro porn hit I AM LOVE. As Emma, a Russian aristocrat who has married into a family of rich Italian industrialists, she somehow feels like a bystander in a parallel universe of wealthy Milan. Her son Edo (Flavio Parenti) wants to set up a restaurant with Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a talented young chef. His delicious cuisine reawakens Emma’s senses until she falls for Antonio when he cooks her a delicious al fresco lunch. This is a stylishly sensual romance where Guadagnino employs the same delicious technique in upmarket settings as Matthew Ross in FRANK AND LOLA – trading the slick splendour of contempo Las Vegas for the chic retro charm of Milan. MT
FRANK AND LOLA IS NOW OUT ON DVD AND DIGITAL DOWNLOAD COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES