PRIVATE LIVES : VIDEODROME : At Home, the Feast Need Never End : Like ‘Water for Chocolate’? Love ‘Weddings’? Then check out these similar--and often superior--films.
One of the cardinal rules of moviegoing is that if you skip a meal to go to a screening, you will invariably be tor tured by a great big stomach-gurgling eating scene. So the arrival of “Like Water for Chocolate” in the video stores this week is particularly good news: It means it is possible to view the film and not worry about getting unquenchably hungry. Now you can watch it at home and eat a great meal at the same time . The easy availability of fare more fascinating than killer popcorn and Goobers may actually make the movie seem better . Or perhaps it works the other way around.
The other art-house-meets-the-multiplex hit out on video this week is “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” Romance with a British accent has always bowled over American audiences. What made this one click with couples is the buffoonish charm mixed in with all the pip-pip witticisms--it’s a tuxedo with baggy pants.
If you play these two out and feel the need for more of same, only different, there are some amenable--yea, better--choices gathering electrostatic dust in the video bins.
For Likewaterforchocoholics, you might try:
BABETTE’S FEAST: When this 1987 best foreign-language film Academy Award winner came out, a local hoity-toity French restaurant (since closed) offered up its pricey version of the film’s feast, complete with pigeon en croute and turtle soup. The source material was a short story by Isak (“Out of Africa”) Dinesen--originally published in the Ladies Home Journal!--and it culminates in a glutinous array of lovingly lit cuisine that would make a hunger-striker renounce all principle. Food never seemed so sensual. (Up until that point, the film is all Danish village winterscapes and pious repressed sufferers!)
TAMPOPO: The Citizen Kane of food movies. This 1987 Japanese comedy has oodles of noodles. It features a widow trying to keep her noodle shop and a deadpan cowboy trucker who wants to help out. It’s farcical and sexy--a rare combo. Food in this film isn’t just a stand-in for sex . . . it is sex. Best scene: A gangster and his moll exchange pleasantries by rolling an egg yolk back and forth between their open mouths. When it breaks, it’s pure consummation.
MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE: Multipart Python madness. The episode featuring the world’s most obese man is the greatest cautionary tale in the history of food-on-film. As each sumptuous dish is placed before him, and gobbled, a horrible feeling sets in. This is, after all, Monty Python--it can only come to a bad end. And it does. An after-dinner mint becomes the catalyst for a cornucopia of digested goodies. WARNING: Unlike the other films mentioned above, “The Meaning of Life” should be viewed on an empty stomach.
If you like the wit in “Four Weddings,” the same screenwriter, Richard Curtis, wrote a much funnier film back in 1989:
THE TALL GUY: Starring Jeff Goldblum as an expatriate American actor in London, it sends up everything from Benny Hill-style low comedy to Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. Emma Thompson plays the tart nurse who gives Goldblum his hay-fever shots, and Rowan Atkinson, who plays the verbally challenged priest in “Four Weddings,” plays a hyperobnoxious comic. Goldblum is a marvel here--he keeps working himself into a series of neuromuscular amazements. And the Lloyd Webber take-off is a musical version of “The Elephant Man” titled “Elephant!” As a satire of the musical theater, the “Elephant!” sequences rival Mel Brooks’ “Springtime for Hitler” numbers in “The Producers.”
GROUNDHOG DAY: Since everyone compared the time-loop premise of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” to “Groundhog Day,” why not go to the source? In “Four Weddings,” Hugh Grant plays a gent who is forever late to weddings; each bout of recurrent lateness registers like a replay of the one before. In “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray plays a newscaster whose day--Groundhog Day--inexplicably repeats itself every sunrise. And both films feature Andie MacDowell as paramour. She’s pretty ga-ga in both but this is one of Murray’s best.
PETER’S FRIENDS: Kenneth Branagh directed this bawdy, convivial Brit house party, and stars in it with--guess who?--Emma Thompson. Rita Rudner, who scripted, also turns up. It’s a bit too Neil Simon-ized and cloying, but it scores off the upper-crust roustabouts in a way that sometimes prompts heavy giggles. Don’t watch for Andie MacDowell. She’s not here.