What chew looking at? Food is a huge part of cinema for me. When we’re shown a meal taking place in a restaurant, café or home, I often miss a crucial glance or piece of dialogue because I’m eagerly scanning the table, trying to work out what’s in the pot, what it smells like, even, incongruously, if there’s really enough to go around the assembled cast. This gourmand honing can be a distraction, so when a film openly revolves around food, and we are encouraged to immerse ourselves in its tastes, textures and odours, I can at least feel I’m paying attention to the right thing for once.
The Lunchbox then, which showed recently at PAC, was a source (sauce?!) of great satisfaction and delight. Ila, a disillusioned young mother, pours her love and affection into the tiffin pots of beautiful food she prepares daily for her ungrateful sod of a spouse. When it is misdelivered, and the new recipient displays his appreciation by practically licking the dishes clean, a correspondence begins. Watching him use a paratha to pinch up the exquisite unctuous curries, or scoop a stuffed aubergine from one of the silver tins, I wanted to climb into the screen and stuff myself silly. In addition to the lunchbox itself, mealtimes are pivotal in the lives of the film’s characters. Ila’s miserable marriage is played out in her philandering husband’s silence as he absentmindedly shovels food during their dinnertimes. Saajan, the note writer, has his loneliness underlined by watching a boisterous family dining in a neighbouring apartment, whilst his colleague Shaikh – despite being poor and socially precarious – expresses his adoration for his wife by cooking her warming, indulgent pasanda.
Food can be a unifier, a comfort, an offering. A shared meal a rare moment of togetherness in a disjointed and frenetic world. Of course, on screen consumption is not always harmonious. Watch this space for the top 10 most awkward food and mealtime movie moments.
Here at Plymouth Arts Centre we are highly attuned to the pleasures of film and food! We serve food and drink through the day, to eat in the restaurant, take away, or even take into the cinema.