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18 September 2007


Ratatouille is a great film, I loved it, but I am surprised it has been such a critical and box-office success. This film is about an environment that is not easily accessible or appreciated by a wide swathe of society. Yes, almost everyone loves nice food, but very few eat at the world's greatest restaurants. This is not about super-heroes, fast cars, the toy-box or monsters under the bed. This is about the very hautiest of haute cuisine. This is a film that gets its title from a dish that is widely known and usually pretty dull. But, the in-joke is that although ratatouille is a peasants dish, Remy, the film's protagonist, is following Thomas Keller's recipe for byaldi. In his cookbook The French Laundry, Keller describes byaldi as "a refined interpretation of ratatouille." But, being one of the world's most innovative chefs, Keller's interpretation of ratatouille is a loooong way from the dish's humble origins. As such, it mirrors the underlying message of the film, don't judge something by the way it looks or what it's called - a rat can cook and a few vegetables in tomato sauce can be the greatest dish ever made.

Like all Pixar's output, Ratatouille is visually stunning, repeatedly I would have sworn I wasn't watching an animation. In some of the bumpf I was given about the film, it said that rendering the various liquids, from wine to water to stock, was one of the toughest animation tasks ever undertaken. In my view, the hard work paid off. I loved the visual beauty and culinary detail, I was completely enthralled. Although, not the entire way through. I felt the film sagged a bit towards the end, especially all the stuff about friendship and family - unless the shmaltz is being used as a replacement for duck fat, it has no place in this film - although it will help to add to its family appeal. And from the repeated and very sweet giggles of the youngest viewer, about five I'd say, this is a film that will definitely appeal to all the family.

I didn't have one favourite moment but I did have a favourite theme: the sheer joy one can experience from food. In three separate instances the pleasure of food is beautifully portrayed with a great use of animation, music and humour. The first was when Remy expresses his delight in the simple pleasures of cheese and a strawberry, the second was when Remy's tasteless brother Emile almost sees the light and the third where my namesake and favourite character, Anton Ego, regresses to his paisan childhood.

This isn't the Oscars but I would like to thank Anna at Digital Outlook who helped me sort out the screening tonight. I know my fellow food bloggers and food aficionados enjoyed themselves immensely as well.

The one question this film left me asking is which UK chef has only just finished doing a voice-over for the UK release of the film? We saw the US release tonight, so had the pleasure of Thomas Keller's mellifluous tones as one of the diners in the restaurant. I'm assuming the secret UK chef will play the same role. Safe money would be Gordon, but I'd love to see Marco do it. Then again, I have no idea which diner it was that Keller voiced, he could not have said more than a couple of lines. Whoever it is won't add or subtract to the story line, but no doubt the hope is that it will boost the profile of film in the UK. In some ways that's a shame because the film doesn't need any gimmicks, it is fantastic with or without a celeb chef.

The film goes on general release in the UK from 12 October and will be previewing in some places from 5 October.


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Thanks again for the invite Mr. Silverbrow - had a great evening and thoroughly enjoyed the film too. I was also surprised that for a mainstream American kids film how faithful it was to cooking techniques and ingredients; everything looked very authentic - astonishing work really.

And regarding the schmaltz - I remember seeing an episode of Newsnight Review once where Mark Kermode (I think) said he thought all American films were about "I love you dad". So they had to get that in somewhere...

An interesting commentary, Anthony. I don't think the themes and setting in Ratatouille are as inaccessible as some foodbloggers are saying. Most people are aware of a mythology of 'snooty restaurants', of arrogant restaurant critics, and indeed some of the workings of kitchens (if nothing else because of the proliferation of more ambitious food programs on tv (Iron Chef/Masterchef/Hell's Kitchen/...). And, in the end, it's still primarily aimed at a non-adult market -- those viewers are far more interested in what things are funny/exciting than impressed by the eye for culinary detail in the production.

Chris, my pleasure, pleased you enjoyed it.

Duncan, you're right people do have preconceptions about food, but this film didn't live up to them. The staff were amenable and welcoming, there was a range of characters in the kitchen, including being very male dominated and there was a great knowledge of how they actually work from the way orders come in onwards.

I think they very much had an adult audience in mind for this film, afterall not many kids have much experience or preconceptions of restaurants.

I also like this movie - till I watched the cartoon ( http://file.sh/Ratatouille+torrent.html ), I didn't have the slightest idea of the dish!

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