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Hortense Laborie is a celebrated chef living in the Perigord region. To her great surprise, the President of the Republic appoints her as his personal cook. She accepts reluctantly but once she has accepted her nomination, Hortense works her heart and soul to produce both a stylish and authentic cuisine. For a while, she manages to impose herself thanks to her sturdy character and despite the jealousies she arouses among the other chefs. For a while only, unfortunately for her and for... the President.Written by
Hits the spot – mostly – but this is good, rather than special. Don't go into the cinema hungry!
Have you ever caught yourself planning where to have dinner even while you're eating lunch? Singapore, as all who live here know very well, is a nation obsessed with good food. As far as humanly possible, many of us live to eat, rather than eat to live. So it's easy to see how a treat like Haute Cuisine – a thoroughly French film that greatly reveres the art and mastery of cooking – might hit the spot with local audiences.
No-nonsense, straight-talking Hortense Laborie (Catherine Frot) – inspired by the real-life Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch – runs her own truffle farm in the French countryside. One day, she's rushed down to Paris to meet a potential employer: the President of France (Jean d'Ormesson), who's modelled after François Mitterrand. With the help of her sous-chef Nicolas (Arthur Dupont), Hortense prepares culinary feasts for a man who hankers after the down-to-earth home cooking of his childhood, even as she's forced to deal with politics and jealousy in the kitchens and corridors of the Élysée Palace.
As a main course, Haute Cuisine serves up much for discerning movie- goers to savour. Hortense emerges as a formidable presence, her strength of character shining through her battles with the unwelcoming men in charge of the Palace's main kitchen. (Mazet-Delpeuch was the first female chef to serve in the Palace.) Her conspiratorial friendships with Nicolas and Jean-Marc Luchet (Jean-Marc Roulot), the President's maître d, are charmingly developed and effectively juxtaposed with her year-long sojourn in Antarctica spent cooking for a very different set of consumers. The film is beautifully shot, making good use of its access to the Palace grounds and lingering lovingly over Hortense's culinary masterpieces.
Just don't expect to have your mind blown or your tastebuds completely tantalised. This is a competent, solidly-made film, but it trades a sense of dramatic urgency for its more gastronomic delights. Hortense's creations will have you salivating in your seat, rich and clearly delicious. Her few face-to-face meetings with the President, however, are sweet and understated rather than the stuff of history. Ultimately, Haute Cuisine is the cinematic equivalent of a good, solid meal – satisfying but not necessarily something to shout from the roof-tops about.
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