Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On eating Ratatouille

As art form, the recently released animated film Ratatouille deserves attention for its treatment of food as the subject matter for a story, and for its pictorial representation. The visual aspect of food being prepared, served and consumed is wonderfully treated in an almost continuos series of images that are a delight to the eyes. The carefully realistic depiction of the kitchen of a successful Parisian restaurant acquires at a climatic moment the character of a grandiose, if fantastic, mural that one would have liked to enjoy for a few more seconds. Unfortunately, the art of animation has rarely been used to tell a convincing and intelligent story. In this case there is no exception to the rule, but the quality of the images and the dominant presence of food offer enough pleasure to forget the inane narrative and its trite components. The reference, though, to traditional stories related to food as a symbol are obviously a sign of an artistic approach to a work conceived for popular entertainment. One cannot but remember, if in a fading memory of old black and white animation shorts, the story of the country mouse who does to the big city to visit an urban cousin. Food in abundance and variety unknown to the farm boy, I mean mouse, is seen both as a manifestation of the rich life of the city and of the dangers and difficulties the city folk have to confront in order to be successful. It is the old, rather idealistic story of the underdog who makes it big in spite of all odds. It is the old wife's tale of the happy outcome fed to a society blinded to its defects by the improbable dream of attaining success and happiness by overcoming the same evil forces that define such success. Food, with its strongly sentimental charge works wonders in making the dream a truly convincing one. Back in the reality of the world not beautifully drawn by the artist of computer animation, one cannot but run to the kitchen and prepare a succulent and sentimentally nutritious meal.

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