Four Chefs and a Feast

I can’t cook a whit – boiling rice and heating up some sauce to put on it is about the limit of my capabilities – but I sure love cooking movies. Watching a master chef slice, dice, sizzle and simmer can be as thrilling as any kung-fu film to me. Two of my favorite films are Eat Drink Man Woman and The Chinese Feast. Though this film doesn’t quite reach that standard, it mixes ingredients from both films to create a warm, tender and humorous dish of a film.

The May Lung Chun restaurant has been in operation in Shanghai for over fifty years and was judged once as one of the best in the world. Now it is partly resting on its reputation; the spark and creative energy a thing of the past. One day an elderly gentleman, Lee (played by Sihung Lung, the father in Eat Drink) comes to dine and orders “Four Happy Families” a dish that has not been made since the Victory Dinner in 1945 – over fifty years in the past. The owner Chun (Kam Si-kit) attempts to make it but the result is lackluster. Lee tells Chun that only the reuniting of the May-Lung-and Chun families can restore the restaurant to its former glory. So Chun sends for members of the other two families with an offer to join him.

Lung (Jordan Chan) is the “Fish Ball King of Hong Kong” and May (Wu Chien-lien) from Taiwan has just had her heart broken by a bowl of warm sesame noodles. The three of them along with Lee come together to try and recreate the lost dishes of the Victory Dinner for a gala event. The relationships that develop between the four characters is sweet and warm and their interplay generates a low key but consistently amusing mood.

The acting is terrific. It’s wonderful to see Sihung Lung again. I enjoyed his performances so much in Eat Drink, Pushing Hands and The Wedding Banquet – and being teamed up with his daughter in Eat Drink, Wu Chien-lien, makes this a double treat. If you think that Wu Chien-lien has one of the most glorious faces in the universe, you have to see this film. She looks unbelievably lovely and the film treats us to many ravishing close ups of all facets of her face. Her acting is near perfect as she is able to convey so much with the subtlest change of expression.

In the end though this film is about a love for food. At the beginning of the film Chun narrates that “Chinese love food. All their decisions are made, issues settled and life events are made over food. Sometimes food brings people together, other times it breaks them apart”. Lee rhapsodizing about his love of food or Wu Chien-lien's eyes lighting up when drinking Magnificent soup can bring tears to your eyes.
Damn, I’m getting hungry. I think its time for some warm sesame noodles. I just hope no one’s heart gets broken.