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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?


October 23, 2011 - Posted by | Monday Movies | , ,


  1. 10/19/11 – The Rickshaw Man – Inagaki 1958 7/10
    10/20/11 – Failan – Hae-sung Song 2001 9/10
    Min-sik Choi of “Oldboy” is terrific;Cecilia Cheung is beatific. This is about the proletariat in an age of globalization and immigration. Serious. Love for those Chinese women with no-suicide contracts making your Ipod will set you free.
    10/21/11 – Fallen Angel – Preminger 1945 7/10 classic noir
    10/22/11 – A Night in Nude:Salvation – Ishii Takashi 2010 8/10
    Neon-noir, neo-noir, gangsters, femme fatales who are monsters and victims at the same time.. Mashup of art cinema and exploitation, little sex but graphic, constant nudity, incest. Schlemiel detector who doesn’t understand anything. Intense gore and violence and nasty. Nobody gets tied up. I have been avoiding the darker sides of Japanese cinema, and as this went along I was thinking misogyny in the name of feminism which the Japanese have a word for. Think “Body Heat” or “Basic Instinct,” maybe new kinds of transgression are integral to neo-noir, as nihilism was to original noir. But by the end themes, performances, and especially visual language were clicking into structures and I thought this is really fucking good.
    10/23/11 – Des hommes et des dieux – Xavier Beauvois 2010 6/10
    8 Trappist monks have to decide whether to run from the Algerian fundamentalist civil war in 1995. Performances were fine, made me cry, but just not visually or cinematically interesting. Loses one because fucking Starz didn’t give me widescreen, 235:1 smashed down to 133:1 and everything was blurry, compositions fucked, people outside of frame, and faces in my face.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 24, 2011

  2. When Inglourious Basterds was out in the theaters, our most frequent moviegoing friends called to ask if my wife and I wanted to go see it. My wife didn’t feel like going out but told me I could go if I wanted. So I did. Well, it was one of those times where I should’ve seen in her eyes that she would’ve preferred I didn’t. Ever since, she’s playfully chided me whenever the title comes up. “Isn’t that movie you went and saw without me?” So I was glad when we were sitting around this weekend and she asked if I minded if we watched it.

    I know the conversation about the movie has focused on the violence against the Nazis and the re-writing of history, but that’s a shame. The best parts don’t even have the Inglourious Basterds in them. Like most Tarantino movies, the best parts are when there’s little besides dialog going on. Christoph Waltz had a part in most of those scenes and he really was fantastic in his role as the “Jew Hunter”.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | October 24, 2011

  3. Boring, pointless digression:Read sections of two books at Google last night, one was Bordwell on Mizoguchi’s framing, never mind, the other was a translated Japanese work on male actors. Seems there are two kinds of male leads, both out of kabuki, and this is in carriage and physical display along with everything else…the samurai (so to speak) and the onnagata, the latter being the guys who played women. This carries thru to the present. The samurai-types are not supposed to be, according to a twisted Confucianism, allowed to love or at least display affection toward women. The sensitive types, prettier, irresponsible, ineffectual, lovers, cute are called “matinee idols” and have always been the ones female fans paid to see. Think Johnny Depp vs Russell Crowe. John Wayne vs Gregory Peck.

    Toshiro Mifune, samurai, and Tatsuya Nakadai, matinee idol. And to a large extent, the pairings (and other films) of Mifune and Nakadai in the 60s worked on this dichotomy for Japanese audiences, the way Depp as pirate plays with it.
    It adds extra shock and sadness to movies like Harakiri and Sword of Doom

    Kitano vs Asano in Kitano’s Zatoichi

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 24, 2011

  4. 2: I wish I hadn’t seen Inglourious Basterds

    The roommate and I have wildly different tastes in almost every dep’t, but we don’t make it our business to tell the other what to watch, what to read, what to eat, what to listen to, how to act at work, who to talk to and how to do it. We work very hard, actually, to avoid doing those kinds of things.

    So I get to avoid the conversations where I’m told the movie about the courage of 8 gentle trappist monks failed the Bechdel test and therefore was evil sexist garbage. I get to form my own opinions. I’m a lucky guy

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 24, 2011

  5. This could be fun. k-sky was just saying that we don’t engage in our threads. We surely could do a hell of a lot better than Kotsko’s “Women and Tree of Life” post over at the other blog.

    OTOH, she, the roomie, doesn’t need anymore than a little ambiguous tolerance when she tells me “Exactly what I expected. Rogen was Rogen, but the guy who played Kato was good and funny.” So I says:”Wasn’t the Hornet pretty much a dork in the tv show? What was his name?” We both know I wouldn’t watch a Rogen movie with Toledo Matt’s eyes on a ten-foot pole. Part of it was a test, to see if I would go “Ewww, Seth Rogen.” I passed. Now I don’t really get to bring up Bela Tarr’s Satantango because I might slip and say “But you wouldn’t like it” to which she could with justice say “And what do you mean by that?”

    Are “Are you really wearing that dress?” and “Are you really wearing that tie?” completely asymmetrical in theory and practice?

    The tolerance of the micro-managing of each other’s lives does turn out asymmetrically in practice. This is the reinforcement and reproduction of the patriarchy, allowing a hegemony in a permitted sphere of control.

    Obviously, there are things that are better done together. But I think modern couples, probably especially young couples, share way too fucking much out of an insecurity they will age out of if they survive the intrusions.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 24, 2011

  6. the movie about the courage of 8 gentle trappist monks failed the Bechdel test

    Best Inglourious Basterds blurb ever.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | October 24, 2011

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