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In a German restaurant, Chef Martha Klein is the undisputed supreme ruler of the kitchen staff and woe to any customer who would dare criticize her cooking. Her life is firmly centered around cooking which takes on a obsessive level with stubborn single mindedness. Even when she is ordered to take therapy, she still constantly talks about her work and the iron clad control she relishes in her task. All that changes when her sister dies in a car accident, leaving her 8 year old daughter, Lina. Martha takes her niece in and while making enquiries for her estranged father, she struggles to care for this stubbornly headstrong child. Meanwhile at work, a new chef named Mario is hired on and Martha feels threatened by this unorthodox intruder. The pressures of both her private and work life combine to create a situation that will fundamentally call her attitudes and life choices into question while these interlopers into her life begin to profoundly change it. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
a. Why are there no great English-language food/romance movies? Whenever you see a movie that truly ravishes you with food preparation and recipes as part of the atmosphere of the movie, it comes from France or Mexico or Hong Kong - or, if it is in English, it's borrowed culturally from another country (e.g. Chocolat, or the Mexican-American adaptation of Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman). I think it's because the English speaking societies of the world have a relatively unsophisticated approach to food preparation and dining, manifest in our great contributions to world culinary arts - fast food and industrial agriculture, plus cooking technologies that take art out of the equation. You can't have a sexy drama set amidst a world of force-fed veal or microwave dinners.
b. Why do we never talk about German comedy? The Germans do have a comedic tradition, but the movies that are released in the US tend to be solemn dramas, violent or shocking action pieces or grim experimental works. On the rare instances that I see a German comedy, I'm always pleasantly surprised, and I have the feeling I'm missing out.
c. Why are European movies so much better than American films at showing sexiness and desirability in 30- or 40-something year-old women? I have a pet theory, that European sensibilities about marriage and commitment are sufficiently different from American norms that there is the expectation that a 35-year old woman may yet be actively and happily single, or perhaps a single mom who isn't stigmatized to feel that she had best find some sucker to marry her and get out of the dating pool.
d. Why isn't jazz used in American soundtracks anymore? In this film set in Germany, the score is assembled by Manfred Eicher (founder of ECM, the acclaimed modern-jazz label), and it's all good. Some nice German lieder, classic vocal jazz, and instrumental pieces by Keith Jarrett and others. We Americans appear to have forgotten jazz as soundtrack music.
In any case, Mostly Martha is a fine little movie set in contemporary Köln, starring Martina Gedeck as the title character. Martha is a neurotic, workaholic chef at a high-end restaurant, whose control freak tendencies keep her at a distance from everyone. When her boss insists that she go to therapy, she replies by preparing recipes for the hapless shrink. Both lonely and a loner (a tricky combination), she throws herself into her work to the point of exhaustion.
Martha's single-minded life is thrown upside down when she suddenly becomes the guardian to her niece Lina (Maxime Foerste). As she struggles to take on this new role, the arrival of a competitor in the form of a brash Italian chef (Sergio Castellitto) threatens her supremacy in the kitchen.
Any viewer of romantic comedies knows where this is going, but I have no complaints about the plot line. The performances were all good; the dialogue is thoughtful; the food looks delicious. It's not a great movie, but it's a good one and would be an admirable effort by any studio.
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