If you’re not actually eating food, the second-best thing you can do is digest it visually. Whether you’re watching Diane Keaton and Woody Allen trying to cook lobster in Annie Hall or walking through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, the best food scenes in movies evoke humor, wonder, joy, and, of course, hunger, be it in the context of romance or even football. I’ll definitely have what she’s having.
Put these food scenes in a different language and they become even more magical. There are hundreds and hundreds of excellent foreign movies about food, like Tampopo from Japan and Eat Drink Man Woman from Taiwan, and, though Jiro Dreams of Sushi is in English, it is well worth streaming it online to understand the art of perfectly cut fish. However, there are only so many foreign movies about food you can watch right this instant. Here are four of them.
Delicatessen isn’t just a good foreign movie about food; it’s one of the best movies of all time. The post-apocalyptic thriller about a butcher who harvests human meat to feed impoverished Parisians is certainly not food porn, but it shows us the desperation of people who are hungry, how it brings them together but also tears them apart. Darkly humorous, with cinematography that is a noir version of director Jean Pierre Jeunet’s more famous film Amélie, this movie might not make you hungry, but it will make you think, feel, laugh, and believe in the power of good art.
In turn-of-the-century Milan, Emma, the Russian wife of the wealthy and influential Recchi family, has an affair with the best kind of person to have an affair with: a chef. Wooing her with cake, seafood, and other mouth-watering foods, he reawakens her passion for life. Dramatic, thought-provoking, and romantic, I Am Love reminds us just how seductive food can be.
The movie adaptation of Mexican writer Laura Esquivel’s novel-cum-cookbook is a classic Romeo and Juliet tale of star-crossed lovers, except it involves food. The most notable scene is when Tita, after being forced to make a cake for the wedding of her sister Rosaura to her lover Pedro, cries into the cake batter, subsequently making everyone at the wedding who eats the cake vomit uncontrollably. The movie is full of scenes in which food causes intense reactions, from physical symptoms to insanity.
History (and Gérard Depardieu) buffs will absolutely love this movie, based on the life of the seventeenth-century “Master of Festivities and Pleasures” for French royalty, François Vatel, who is tasked with organizing a wildly extravagant feast for none other than Louis XIV.