The documentary “El Bulli: Cooking in Progress” offers a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes at the Spanish restaurant hailed as the most influential eatery in the world.
The film starts by following chef Ferran Adrià and his staff through the six months it took to design and create the menu for the 2008-2009 season. (The restaurant closed for good this past summer.) Adrià and his staff vigorously rethink the very idea of fine dining, creating meals that are inventive and odd, part science, part craft and with perhaps just a hint of magic.
This is not comfort food by any stretch but rather an intellectualized distillation of flavors and ideas in which process and presentation really matter — although meals could stretch up to 50 courses, so presumably no one went home hungry.
The film, directed by German documentarian Gereon Wetzel, is made in the traditional vérité style of no direct interviews, minimal graphics and precious little info besides what simply happens before the camera. Adrià's philosophy of food emerges through watching him work; the look on his face as he tries dish after dish, the level of concentration applied to getting an ice vinaigrette just so, explains it all.
Calling the staff of El Bulli “foodies” seems too insignificant and superficial, as they are scientists of taste, pushing the limits of their field.
“El Bulli: Cooking in Progress.” No MPAA rating. In French, English and Catalan with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. At Laemmle’s Sunset 5, West Hollywood; Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle’s Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle’s Claremont 5, Claremont.