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Charles Duchemin, a well-known gourmet and publisher of a famous restaurant guide, is waging a war against fast food entrepreneur Tri- catel to save the French art of cooking. After having agreed to appear on a talk show to show his skills in naming food and wine by taste, he is confronted with two disasters: his son wants to become a clown rather than a restaurant tester and he, the famous Charles Duchemin, has lost his taste! Written by
Robert Zeithammel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
If you suffer from a lack of appetite, I recommend you give L'aile ou la cuisine" a gander
If it takes me to explain to you that the French take their cuisine very seriously, you probably have just arrived on this planet and seek somebody to take you to our leader. Sure, cheese that reek like dead mans feet, stuffed duck or escargot (that's snails, in case you live in the States) are not everybody's cup of tea. But taste is debatable. Quality is not and for things concerning (culinary) quality, you need not look further than La Belle France. It doesn't come as a huge surprise hence that many French films concern themselves with the kitchen and even less of a surprise that master-comedian (and passionate chef in his own rights) Louis de Funes would eventually take the topic on.
Publicist Charles Duchemin (de Funes) is the bane of all French restaurants: His food-guide bestows the much coveted Duchemin-Stars upon the restaurants (or takes them away if warranted which is more often the case than not). Having some of the keenest taste-buds in all of France, Duchemin takes it upon himself to "test" the individual restaurants, usually disguised as a harmless (looking) old lady or an American tourist. But Duchemin has a nemesis of his own: scheming Jacques Tricatel (deliciously slimy Julien Guiomar), industrial food-producer that delivers virtually artificial food to chains and roadside Inns. Being challenged to a TV-interview by Tricatel, Duchemin (after having almost been 'poisoned' by eating some of Tricatels produces) has lost his sense of taste, yet must save French cuisine somehow.
It is my firm opinion that de Funes later films were also his best. This goes for "The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob", his second-to-last feature "The Cabbage Soup" as well as "L'aile ou la cuisine", filmed shortly after de Funes had recovered from a massive heart-attack. Perhaps it was his failing health and age that made the comedian (slightly) move away from his hyper-paced screen-persona to a more subtle humour (despite all the typical trademarks still being present, albeit tuned down). In the past, de Funes sidekicks had a hard time not being paled out by de Funes performance, but in his later years you could tell, that the comedian timed his humour so as to give the other cast-member some breathing space. In this case comedian Coluche, playing de Funes son and reluctant partner-in-crime, who would rather be a circus-clown than a connoisseur. Like de Funes, Coluche has mastered the art of physical slapstick without turning the gags into an infantile farce. The scene, where he inherently mimics a waiter with a nervous disorder, is pure slapstick gold, turning it almost into an art-form.
Apart from being one of de Funes last few films, it does have a rather depressing prophecy. If you have travelled through France and Belgium, the hearts of European cuisine in recent days, you will have noticed the abundance of fast-food-joints in the cities and highway-stops. You may even have tried the grub there (I refuse to call it food) and, if you have seen the film, you may have looked around, looking whether you'd spot the "Tricatel"-logo anywhere, perhaps printed on the thigh of a chicken if indeed chicken it was that they were serving.
Still, the film remains a delight and a clean 8/10
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