Monday Movies Only Needs One, But We’re Going to Make Nine In Case We Break Eight.
Kings of Pastry is another oddball-competition documentary in the tradition of Spellbound, Wordplay, and Battle Royale. We follow three of the 16 competitors to be the Meilleur Ouvriers de France, or MOF; there’s no limit to the number of pastry chefs who can achieve MOFdom, but few are selected, and like the Olympics, the competition is only once every four years. As with all of these docs, it’s impossible not to be hooked and then torn by meeting the competitors early in their journeys. Jacquy runs a pastry school, has a butch Chicagoan wife, and consults with a team of like seven coaches. Phillippe is young, sweet, nervous and lacks a chin. Regis competed four years ago and shattered his sugar sculpture, scotching his chances.
The drool ebbs and flows. Jacquy’s creampuffs look delectable but the whole thing reeks of effort, man; the bulk of the labors go into the sugar sculptures, which are attractive to the eye but not to the tongue. Sugar artisans, like breakdancers, have a fairly limited repertoire of moves, and the sculptures come off impressively complex but headachey as well, as if made for the ugliest Bat Mitzvah of 1988. This centerpiece event reminded me of Sidney Mintz’s Sweetness and Power, a classic of social and economic history and its descriptions of the vast and elaborate sugar scupltures commissioned by French aristocrats in the centuries before sugar could be imported from the colonies in sufficient quantities to sweeten the pots of the masses. Theirs were cooler.
All in all, diverting but a little disappointing from D.A.Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus of Don’t Look Back fame. (The wan digital video doesn’t help.) If you feel like queuing up a Netflix-available competition doc, this will do, but I’d hold out for Make Believe, produced by my friend Steven Klein, about the contest to be the world’s greatest teenage magician.
And you? What did you see, and how did it taste?
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