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Brian A. Hoffman
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A young, incredibly talented chef quits the profession after a contest to head a world-class restaurant ends in tragedy. Retiring to a small rural town with his grandfather, he finds a new and more peaceful existence, working as a farmer and selling vegetables at the local market. Even though content in his new life, when a nationwide cooking competition offers him the chance to take on his long-time rival, Seong-Chan embarks on a journey that will forever change his view of the world and lead him to the most startling revelations. Surrounding himself with a ragtag crew of misfits, each with his own poignant story to tell, he is soon in the media spotlight, facing stiff competition from the other contestants while dealing with his grandfather's diminishing faculties and a long buried family secret. Seong-Chan can only struggle to overcome every adversity with a quiet dignity. Written by
Robert Guillemette for Fantasia Film Festival
Sik-gaek (a.k.a. Le Grand Chef / Best Chef / Shik-gaek) (2007) and the television series "Shik-gaek" (a.k.a. "Gourmet" or "Best Chef") (2008), are both based on a comic book by Yeong-man Heo. See more »
Le Grand Chef is a film about cooking. That's not necessarily a bad thing in itself, taking its origins from what appears to be a popular comic book. It's comic book origins are very apparent in the film, from framing choices to character development to story progression. Unfortunately, in its adaptation, the film appears to try too hard to make it a comic book in movie form and leaves the dynamism of cinema behind.
The story is about a young man, who, outcast from his culinary school as a result of accidentally poisoning food tasters with golden blowfish sashimi, is recruited into a culinary competition to win the title of the greatest Corean chef and claim a historically important cooking blade, belonging to the last royal chef. Or something like that. He is rivaled by the heir to the school he got kicked out of and there are a number of supporting characters.
I think one of the problems with this film is that it compressed a comic book series into a film and tried to pack in as much as it could and also played it as close to the comic book as possible. Unfortunately, it makes the film seem a bit like an anime series in fast forward. The story itself is very comic book-like, with lots of subplots and hidden revelations that aren't exactly necessary. Consequently, we don't see a lot of character development, but rather character revelations instead, as they or we learn about their background (sigh, in flashback). Ultimately, it leads the characters and the overall story to seem more than a little two dimensional.
Another thing that surprised me was how a film about cooking can fail to make the photography of the process of cooking all that interesting. There are plenty of other films with cooking themes that do this very well. Granted, I could see that a lot of the framing was probably taken from the comic book itself, but I feel that there is a place to copy and a place to use the strength of the cinematic medium and this film relies too heavily on the former.
In the end, I imagine it would be more worthwhile to read the comic book series instead. With such a two dimensional story, characters, pacing, and uninspired photography and merely adequate performances from the players, there isn't much here to recommend. On the other hand, production specs are good and the film isn't ugly. While it isn't painful to watch, I can't recommend it as it's equivalent to eating only a bowl of plainly cooked rice as your meal. Not very interesting. 5/10.
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