The venerable documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, who is 93 years old and still going strong, is known for his expansive, compassionate, and haunting works, documenting American institutions for more than half a century. movies like welfare, Secondary school, Social housing, law and order, Domestic Violence And Belfast, Maine captured the inner workings of various public institutions, be they schools, offices, communities or entire cities, and the people who keep them afloat. His films, which often last three hours or longer, are full of the bureaucratic details and trifles of everyday life, and paint an ever-evolving portrait of America in all its complex, paradoxical glory.

From the 1990s, Wiseman began making films in France, his adopted country today. But instead of focusing on the country’s many public bureaucracies, which can be more intimidating and Kafkaesque than those in the US, he has chosen to document a number of his famous cultural institutions, from the Comédie-Française to the Opéra de Paris and beyond to the popular nude theater cabaret, the Crazy Horse. Compared to his American films – the most recent of them City hallwas a deep dive into Boston’s progressive urban agenda—his French are altogether, well, more Epicurean.

Menus Plaisirs – Les Troisgros

The end result A farm-to-table film.

It certainly is Menus Plaisirs – Les Troisgros, a 240-minute immersion in one of the finest restaurants in France and the world, run by the same close-knit family for four generations. Set in the kitchens, dining room and neighboring farmhouses of a delicious Michelin 3-star restaurant in the idyllic Loire region, the film is both a foodie’s dream and a guide for aspiring chefs, uncovering the intricate alchemy that such places can create ausmacht not only run flawlessly, but serve groundbreaking dishes that are also locally sourced.

The Troisgros family was at the forefront of the nouvelle cuisine movement that emerged in France in the 1960s and ’70s, when young chefs shifted from the heavy sauces and dishes of traditional haute cuisine to serving leaner, more artfully presented dishes plates this brought out the bold flavors of fresh ingredients. Pierre Troisgros, who took over the original restaurant from his father Jean-Pierre in the late 1950s, was a major player in nouvelle cuisine. His son Michel continues this tradition to this day, and in the film we see him working alongside him be Son César, who has since taken over the office.

None of this is initially apparent from Wiseman’s typical fly-on-the-wall approach, which lacks titles or talking-head interviews and invites the viewer to watch and learn. There are a few explanations about the history of the restaurant, but after almost four hours! It’s as if the director was deliberately telling us to sit back, relax and smell the sweetbreads infused with hot peppers and passion fruit instead of asking too many questions.

The documentary oscillates between the latest version of Troisgros, opened in 2017 by Michel and his wife Marie-Pierre and poetically named “Le Bois sans feuilles” (The forest without leaves), and scenes set on the neighboring farms, where they source the leaves produce, meats, cheeses and wine served up by their elite chefs each night.

As in most Wiseman films, we can witness every phase of the process. These include long and passionate debates between Michel, César and youngest brother Léo (who runs a more modest eatery nearby) over a new recipe – should the rhubarb be marinated in elderberry sauce or not? – as well as visits to suppliers who provide them with all the ingredients. Troisgros is both a family-owned and farm-to-table business, involving a very complex human supply chain where everyone knows everyone by their first name and where bio-diverse, organic farming practices are used The order of the day.

Of course, that comes with a price—we learn that when the restaurant’s sommelier, who looks and acts like a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, mentions that he presells a bottle of wine for 15,000 euros ($16,000). has. Almost all of the people we see eating at Le Bois sans feuilles are wealthy-looking elderly whites, and a dinner for four can easily run into the thousands, wine included. The attention given to each of their dietary needs is impressive and reminiscent of the recent episode of The bear takes place in an upscale Chicago restaurant that has collected FBI-level information on every customer.

And yet, for all its overstrain, the kitchen at the Troisgros isn’t filled with pretentious, screaming French chefs Ratatouille, but functions more like a high-tech laboratory where voices are rarely raised and perfection is all that matters. Creativity also abounds. The chefs make things that seem impossible to humans with melted chocolate or fresh fish or the brains of small animals, honing their techniques through careful instruction and constant gaining of experience. Watching the Troisgros men at work in the kitchen – or, as Michel calls it, “my little tennis court” – is like watching athletes perform at the Olympics, while the dozens of chefs working at their side work, always try to keep up .

Food porn aside – although this is a Wiseman documentary, the food was filmed factually by DP James Bishop and not like the crockery depicted on it top chef Menus Plaisirs (The title is a play on words meaning both “enjoyment menu” and “small pleasures.”) perhaps above all leaves us with a picture of harmonious bliss between work and home, man and nature, which hardly seems possible these days. “It’s been 86 years,” Michel tells a client towards the end of the film, going back to his family’s culinary roots from the beginning. Wiseman’s first feature film, Titticut Follieswas written exactly 66 years ago, and there’s something about his latest work that speaks of a savoir-faire that only time can convey.

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