Top 10 Killer (Literally) Food Films
Did watching Julie & Julia make you want to kill yourself? Or someone else? Or perhaps you've heard that your preoccupation with eating, your appetite for amuse-bouche, your thirst for terroir--the sort of things that would drive you to see such a film in the first place--might be symptomatic of a neurological disorder called Gourmand Syndrome. Swiss researchers have frequently observed brain lesions in those who exhibit this so-called "eating disorder," and these lesions are similar to those found in other, graver, impulse control disorders. We mention this to pose a possible (however improbable) explanation as to the disproportionately large number of food films that involve murder, though perhaps this is just a happy coincidence. In any case, here is our list of Top 10 Killer Food Films, in no particular order.
The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover
10. The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover (1989)
Were it not for director Peter Greenaway's long tracking shots sweeping back and forth across the kitchen, the overtly color coded dining room, a very young Tim Roth smearing dog excrement all over the face of naked debtor in the restaurant parking lot, or the surprisingly casual frequency of Helen Mirren's full frontal shots, The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover would still be among the top food films ever. Well, it might be anyway.
9. 301, 302 (1995)
Two women, two apartments. Both living alone, each with a different, very extreme relationship to food. 301 cooks enormous, lavish meals, which she eats, alone, in place of sex. 302 is unable to stomach food because it stirs up memories of a childhood trauma. They meet, they share their stories and their plates, providing each other a kind of comfort and therapy. With such a seemingly healthy friendship, it's odd that some people should have to be killed. And that some of them should be eaten.
8. Claude Chabrol
If you were to pick a movie by this French master of suspense at random, you could count on three ingredients: perversions, fine dining, and murder. Take Merci por la Chocolat, in which flagging chocolate baroness Isabelle Huppert poisons her kin with spiked cups of cocoa. If you're looking for a more, ahem, meaty story, try Le Boucher with Stephane Audran as unsuspecting school teacher to Jean Yanne's murderous butcher. Or maybe it was tantalized, desirous school teacher to his unsuspecting butcher. Who knows. It has often been noted that you can tell what Chabrol thinks about his characters by their relationship to food. Watching Audran gobble up Yanne's entire jar of brandied cherries, one by one, as she figures out his secrets must mean something about her psyche, then, right?
7. Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978)
Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?
It is the best and worst of times for Max, the brilliantly lyrical, "callamitously fat" publisher of London's top gourmet magazine. His latest issue details "the world's most fabulous meal," a triumphant menu he's personally curated for the Queen's upcoming state dinner, featuring a course from each of his favorite chefs. Unfortunately, the chieftain of chins has been ordered to go on a severe diet, a prescription to which his addiction to food makes it impossible for him to adhere, and his favorite chefs are being offed, one by one, in the style of their signature dishes. Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? is as if the "Glutton in a Restaurant" scene from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life was adapted into a feature-length, whodunit type film starring Jacqueline Bisset as directed by Ted Kotcheff (Wake in Fright, Weekend at Bernie's).
6. Sweeney Todd (1982)
At its core, Sweeney Todd is about a woman who'll do just about anything to make a good meat pie. Isn't it? People are killed not for purely utilitarian purposes of sustenance and survival; they're killed for better cuisine. Ask Alice Waters: better food is made with better, fresher, local ingredients, be they human or otherwise. Like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we think the filmed version of original stage production with Angela Lansbury is better than the Johnny Depp version.