Berlinale 2016, Part One: Culinary Cinema

 

It’s a wrap!

This year I watched slightly more movies than usual.

  • 2 Culinary Cinemas: Ants on a Shrimp and Wanton Mee,
  • 3 Panoramas: War on Everyone, Goat, Junction 48
  • 3 Berlinale Special Gala: Creepy, A Quiet Passion, Where to Invade Next
  • 3 Competition: Midnight Special, Alone in Berlin, Genius
  • 5 Generation: Ted Sieger’s Molly Monster, ENTE GUT! Maedchen allein zu Haus, Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank, Royahaye Dame Sobh, Born to Dance
  • 1 Generation Short Films.

16 movies, and 6 short films. Phew! It’s going to be too long to write in a single post, so I’m going to divide it into:

  • Part One (This one!): Culinary Cinemas: Ants on a Shrimp & Wanton Mee
  • Part Two: The Suppression Theme
  • Part Three: Generation and other non-depressing movies

Alrighty, let’s get to it!

Culinary Cinema: Ants on a Shrimp

Perhaps we all have a perversion to know how others lead their life. My interest in food is not as a chef.  I’m always curious in the thought process of an artist. Not necessarily for copying or following what they do, but just to candidly see them doing what they do best.

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Talk with the director of Ants on a Shrimp, Maurice Dekkers.

Ants on a Shrimp follows the story of the Noma team in their journey to open a Noma pop-up at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo. Anyone who thinks that opening a restaurant or being a chef is an easy job should watch one of these movies about a chef’s life. It’s very much of a lifelong dedication, long hours to achieve food perfection.

The movie opens with the opening day scene at Noma Tokyo. There seemed to be some chaotic things going on and you could see the nervousness going on, even with René Redzepi, the chef of Noma. “But nervousness is good”, he said, “it showed that you cared.”.

The journey goes into a flashback of the crew being sent to Tokyo three months prior to coming up with the 14-course menu. The work is by no means easy. It’s anything but. You see the crew working long hours in a kitchen space three stories underground, pushing themselves to achieve the best dish possible. Yet, despite all that, you could see that they are those crazy people who love their job so much there’s nothing else they would rather do.

You get to understand their thought process and sympathize with their agony to achieve perfection. On how they tried to come up with not just Noma’s signature dishes, but also dishes representing their food journey in the Japanese landscape.

I love the scene where the crew went for a walk through the forest and (carelessly) tried out different bits and pieces of the forest. Even ants :D.

Should you see this movie? Definitely, if you’re interested in Noma. Yes, if you’re interested in an artist / chef thought process.

WARNING: some scenes might not be suitable for vegetarians ;).

Culinary Cinema: Wanton Mee

“Wanton Mee” is a look into the Singaporean hawker food culture. Told from the perspective of a middle-aged food critic, Chun Feng Koh, Wanton Mee walked you through the different food stalls in Singapore, on the (most times) grueling process of how the food is produced.

The movie brings you the ultimate Singaporean food porn, where you see all of those to-die-for mouth-watering street foods, with nowhere to get them in Berlin. (PS: I’ve never been so hungry and so sad after a movie before.)

Evolving around the clash of generations, which seemed to be one of the issues in Singapore, a city of rapid change. You could see the conflict between Chun Feng Koh with his father, about how things were moving slower with his father’s generation. You also have the conflict with the younger generation, who seemed to want things in an even speedier pace.

These thoughts are then brought into how we see the hawker food places. Not the trendiest place to go anymore, yet they produce one of the best food experience you can get in Singapore. The movie pointed out that hawkers seemed to be of a dying breed, due to rising costs of operational costs, and lack of interest of doing such grueling job.

Chun’s journey takes you to the multiple hawker places across Singapore. From a very distinctive way to serve food (Hainanese rice in form of a ball to put the chicken on!), successful story of expansion of the kitchen, fathers who doesn’t really want their children to continue doing the business, fathers who insisted the children does, children who wanted to continue despite, and the business that stayed as sisterhood.

It might not be the best form of docu-feature I’ve seen, but it’s enough to make you want to book a flight to Singapore right away. Once I get my hands on the list of food mentioned in the movie!

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Talk with the director of Wanton Mee, Eric Khoo (the one with the mic) and the main actor, Boon Pin Koh

Should you see this movie? Yes, if you want to see a different food culture in Singapore, where clashes between generations are more prominent. No, if you don’t have some sort of immediate access to those foods mentioned in the movie (kidding!).

Afterthoughts on Culinary Cinema

While I don’t think it’s completely fair to compare both of them, (Wanton Mee is docu-feature rather than a true documentary, but assuming that the food hawker owner/chef work is an actual documentary), I would like to write down my afterthoughts, especially since I saw the movie back to back.

  • Being a chef requires many hours of work. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Michelin star chef or a hawker chef. Perhaps the only difference is how much people are willing to pay you for your time.
  • There are different skills on being a chef, and it’s not just making plates look pretty. You tend to take for granted the amount of skills needed to make a “simple” dish like cooking with a charcoal stove.
  • With the hawker culture, it always seemed like they just wanted the secret to stay in the family, and so you basically work until you die or your children take over.
  • With Noma’s concept (and perhaps most restaurant like this), the head chef tends to find the best team and talent. There are a few scenes in Ants on a Shrimp where you could see the nurturing culture of the team. One where they mentioned a recurring staff competition to create the best dish, and, more importantly, having the whole Noma team tasted it and giving them constructive feedback. Another when Rene gave praise to his whole main team, highlighting each one’s capability, that made them special and crucial to the team.  

If you’re curious about the reviews of the other Culinary Cinemas this year and a look into the dinner, go check out my dear friend Yasmina’s blog on the Berlinale Culinary Cinema, here.

 

Book Review: Immortal at the Edge of the World

Immortal at the Edge of the World, Gene Doucette

Immortal at the Edge of the World, Gene Doucette

Finally! I’ve been looking forward to the final book in the Immortal series by Gene Doucette. You could read my review of the first book, Immortal and Hellenic Immortal. I had an advance copy of the book, courtesy of the lovely people at The Writer’s Coffee Shop, but to be honest I would have gotten it anyways, because I love this series!

Blurb

“What I was currently doing with my time and money . . . didn’t really deserve anyone else’s attention. If I was feeling romantic about it, I’d call it a quest, but all I was really doing was trying to answer a question I’d been ignoring for a thousand years.”

In his very long life, Adam had encountered only one person who seemed to share his longevity: the mysterious red-haired woman. She appeared throughout history, usually from a distance, nearly always vanishing before he could speak to her.

In his last encounter, she actually did vanish—into thin air, right in front of him. The question was how did she do it? To answer, Adam will have to complete a quest he gave up on a thousand years earlier, for an object that may no longer exist.

If he can find it, he might be able to do what the red-haired woman did, and if he can do that, maybe he can find her again and ask her who she is . . . and why she seems to hate him.

“You are being watched. Move your loved ones to safety . . . trust nobody.”

But Adam isn’t the only one who wants the red-haired woman. There are other forces at work, and after a warning from one of the few men he trusts, Adam realizes how much danger everyone is in. To save his friends and finish his quest he may be forced to bankrupt himself, call in every favor he can, and ultimately trade the one thing he’d never been able to give up before: his life.

From the author of Immortal and Hellenic Immortal comes Immortal at the Edge of the World, the breathtaking conclusion to the best-selling trilogy. Will Adam survive?

My Review

First up, I think I need to let you know I haven’t been in the right headspace lately to read a book. It might influence my impressions a little bit, just because it’s currently harder for me in general to finish a book.

On to the book, what I have always loved from this series is Adam’s sense of humor. He is somehow ancient, you could see from his perspective of the world, with plenty of sarcasm, which I suspect helped him (sort of) being sane. I think I said this every single time I reviewed the book, so I’m just reporting happily that it didn’t change. I am going to miss Adam!

This time around, we get to explore a little more of Asian culture, with the introduction of one of Adam’s friend, Hsu, faeries, and the trade world to the Orient. Perhaps it was also because my lack of interest of this topic that made it slightly harder for me to read it, so it does feel slightly lackluster in the middle… BUT I am so glad I do carry on because it picked up and become immensely good in the end. I love the conclusion of the trilogy.

I do think you would need to at least know what’s going on in the previous book to be able to completely enjoy this one. Although it does have a good intro into the recurring characters so you won’t be completely lost… It’s just much more fun to read the first two.

I like how the author weaves the past and the present into this book. I think it made much more sense, especially because it’s all Adam’s point of view, and it’s always amusing to me to see his perspective on the past events. Like what he said about the beginning of Islam… (no, I won’t give you the spoiler, you’d have to read it).

Would I recommend this book? Hell yes, I always recommends all of them. If you like a sarcastic, sometimes half drunk, always real main character who happens to be immortal, then you should read this. The only downside is you probably couldn’t find this easily in a bookstore in Germany. There’s always Amazon though. And kindle edition! I don’t get a cut or anything for this. I just think this is a good book!

 

Notes:

Thank you Cindy at The Writer’s Coffee Shop, who gave me a chance to review this book and participate on the blog tour.

 

Fantasy Film Festival – Berlin 2014

Fantasy Film Fest Berlin 2014

Fantasy Film Fest Berlin 2014

More good movies! I think this is one of my favorite film festivals because it’s fun! (Yes I do think bloody zombies are funny)

I originally planned only to see four movies, but ended up seeing twelve fourteen(!) movies. (Yes I’m a movie addict – my hobbies keep me sane!)

This year’s selection was pretty good in my opinion. There’s some fresh humor, good scares, and strange ideas. I’m trying to separate my impressions based on the type of movies I’ve seen.

First up is what stood up to me most. Can you guess? No, it’s not how scary or bloody, but…

Music

Yes, music! It’s so prominent on some of the films that it sticks in my head. There’s the obvious one, like

Metalhead, a film from Iceland about a sister who tries to cope with her brother’s tragic death. From the title, it’s quite obvious the music genre is metal. And it’s Iceland, with a little bit of church thrown into it. Not really recommending this one except for the music. The rest is just too cliched.

Wrong Cops, is simply brilliantly fun! If you love Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber (or other sort of crazy utopia), then by all means, do yourself a favor and go see this movie. I’m not a fan of electronic music, but this one made it work so well. Plus you’d want to see Marilyn Manson in this one.

Life After Beth, the closing movie in FFF. It’s a dark comedy zombie movie with a little romance thrown into it (don’t worry it’s nothing like Warm Bodies). Here the music works as a different element, just because the zombies react well to smooth jazz… !

Haunted House

Of course, right? No horror festival should be without one. There’s some good scary ones this year too, I’m actually a wimp when it comes to haunted scares.

The Babadook, sounds like a children movie based on a children book and a character called Babadook. No, surely not. So please don’t take your children to see this one. It’s in the same line as Conjuring with some nice psychological twists.

Oculus, a story about two siblings who tried to resolve their twisted past by destroying the mirror that somehow created the illusions in their head. Quite interesting premise but somehow fell a little flat in the end.

Housebound, is a smart take on the haunted house theme. Comes with a sarcastic crazy daughter who ia housebound from her criminal behaviour. It’s a New Zealand movie and now I’m starting to think if there’s a New Zealand type of humor that I really like? Totally recommended, and this movie also happens to win the Fresh Blood award (audience award) at the FFF Berlin.

Fantasy World

Give and take, all movies are fantasies anyways, but these movies just take it to a different level of fantasy.

Patema Inverted, a story of two worlds with polar gravity. What happens when these two people from these two worlds meet? Could you actually fall to the sky? It’s an anime movie that’s somehow sweet but also well made.

Get Shorty, true, it’s a compilation of shorts, but I’m just going to mention two I’m very impressed with this year… Orbit Ever After, which is a story of love in the orbiting small spaceships, with a rather rogue and apocalyptic feel to it. Sequence, what if you’re in everyone’s super scary nightmare last night?

Mockumentaries

What We Do in the Shadows. I’ve seen this at the Berlinale, and I love it!! The vampire genre is already supersaturated and I didn’t think anyone could come up with a nice take on it… until this one. It’s that good and funny!

Others

Couldn’t really find good categories for the movies here. I wanted to say Asians, but that’s just where it comes from and not really reflects what it’s about.

Go Goa Gone, zombies meet Bollywood. It’s just funny to see how different culture “react” to this. Has its fun moments for sure!

Man on High Heels, tries to deal with a deeper meaning than just an action movie. He’s a superpower cop guy who always wanted to have a gender reassignment surgery. Interesting drama, especially when set in a culture and environment where this is highly frowned upon.

13 Sins, how far would you go when you are desperate for money? It’s a remake from a Thai movie (which, from IMDB seemed to be a comedy – I really want to see it!). Anyhow, this has some good stuff going, although I don’t really like the ending. Also, Daniel Stamm, the director, was present at the screening. Didn’t know that he’s German (the movie was USA/English)

These two movies, I don’t like them at all, but I’m mentioning it just for my own reference.

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, it’s one of those overly pretentious movies in my book. There are plenty of “metaphors” going on in this movie (yes, I’m putting it on quote consciously and on purpose). It’s one of the longest movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s only 100 minutes.

Wer, it tries to be a new take on werewolves but failed. The only thing I’d remember about this movie is that it’s set in Lyon. Other than that, it’s one of the movies who wanted to be smart about tackling werewolves but ended up doing every cliches in the book.

Recommendations

What really the stands out for me: Housebound, What We Did in the Shadows, Life After Beth, and Wrong Cops. Go see them when you have the chance!!

 

Evil Twin (Short Film)

eviltwin

Evil Twin (2013), Producer/Director: Christian Pfeil, Actors: Cha-Lee Yoon, Can Aydin, Phong Giang. http://epicmanproduction.com/eviltwin/index.html

Synopsis

“The film begins at the end of a robbery. The main characters, the up-market criminals, are old friends and also two sets of brothers. In the job they just completed, teleportation technology was stolen and this brought out the worst in one of them. The Evil Twin begins a fight that catapults them back and forth through time and space; nobody knows which way this fight will go or the next place the devices will send them…

Who will be the winner in this brotherly battle and have the control of the teleportation and the gang?”

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Review

What do you mostly want to see in a good action one-on-one combat short? Brilliantly choreographed fight scenes, check. Beautiful camera angles and shots, check. Brutal realistic one on one combat, check.

I love the play and the fights between the characters. I think it’s a fun idea to use some sort of portal to transport you (and most times, unfortunately, your opponent too) to a new terrain. Especially if you think you can’t win in the current one. It’s quite fun to see them fight on a bridge, in the rain, on top of a tank, bare hands, guns, … and a cameo from the director? ;).

It’s a crazy all out indie sort of an action flick. Somehow reminded me of The Raid. Perhaps this is the direction the director will be going for in producing a full length movie? I hope so. I think it’ll be great.

I wish there’s more story to it though, just so I’d have more emotional attachment to the characters and I’d root more for one of them ;). And, I know this is more of a men-flick, but I’d love to see either more female characters (not just a stripper!) or none at all.

All in all, it’s one to watch if you love action scenes and real bloody fights. Looking forward to another piece from Christian Pfeil / Epicman Production (ha, I love the name of the company!).

 

EVIL TWIN Teaser Two from Christian Pfeil on Vimeo.

EVIL TWIN is on its way!
06.12.13
20 h
Cinestar
Privat Screening
https://www.facebook.com/EVILTWINMOVIE
http://epicmanproduction.com/eviltwin/index.html

Fantasy Film Festival – Berlin 2013

Fantasy Filmfest 2013

Fantasy Filmfest 2013

It’s been exactly one year since my last year’s post on Fantasy Filmfest. Since I had a lot of fun last year, of course I went again this year! I planned only to see four movies, but ended up seeing nine. That’s just how it goes when you’re having too much fun, isn’t it?

As it was last year, they’ve put up a good selection of movie too, although I really missed something funny, sarcastic, so over the top like Cockneys vs Zombies or Grabbers. On the other hand, there’s loads of smartly constructed story, ideas, and those dark humors.

Here are my impressions of the movies.

The Congress

The Congress

The Congress

The opening movie. It was a Sci-Fi theme, the what if we were to be able to escape from our reality into an animated reality by just a sniff of a substance. In the animated world, you are free to be whoever you want (and someone chose to be Jesus)… I’m not sure I’d want to be anyone else but myself, and I hope my friends too (out-of-topic). Anyways, I was a little torn with this one. It has some great ideas but I find it lacking punch. Either the story wasn’t dramatic enough (note to self: read the book) or the interplay between the real world and the animated world wasn’t working so well. I do like the imagination of the characters so I’m going to go neutral and say it’s a good festival movie. Also I went to the talk at the Apple Store earlier that day, which is where I got my fff poster signed by the director, Ari Folman :). Continue reading