Thursday, 17 March 2011

Food on Film: I Am Love

I have just caught up with the wonderful I Am Love (io Sono l'Amore; 2009) on DVD. It was directed and written by Luca Guadagnino, and produced by Tilda Swinton. Swinton plays Emma, a Russian woman who marries into an aristocratic Italian family. She excels at playing her role, in a palatial villa in Milan, as wife to the Patriarch (Pipo Delbono) and mother to Eduardo (Gabriele Fezetti) and Alegra (Marisa Berenson).

However, Emma has an awakening when she eats food prepared by the talented young chef Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), who has become friends with her son after a rowing race. The son is helping Antonio to finance a restaurant in the countryside, and so the chef is asked to prepare a meal at the villa. While making arrangements for this meal, Emma is taken to the idyllic setting where Antonio grows his vegetables - a Garden of Eden - and they start a passionate affair.

The renowned chef Carlo Cracco and his sous-chef were advisers on set and prepared all the food seen on screen. In a restaurant scene, Antonio prepares Leghorn style-cod, a traditional Italian dish of cod and tomatoes. He deconstructs it, in the style of modern "molecular gastronomy" with a tomato foam. Elsewhere, he experiments with a dish of aubergine and elderflowers. In the “awakening scene” (below), Emma is eating "Prawns with ratatouille, and sweet and sour sauce".

In the villa kitchen cooking scene (second below), Antonio shows Emma how to make a Russian salad with a blowtorch. This is actually one of the signature dishes of Carlo Cracco, in which the salad is enclosed in a sugar parcel. Franco in this scene is in reality a chef in Cracco's restaurant (Ristorante Cracco in Milan), where Edoardo Gabbriellini worked for two months learning to handle food like a chef before filming began.

The climactic dinner scene revolves around a special mixed-fish Russian soup called oucha (ukha), which Emma has described to Antonio.

Guadagnino channels classic Italian cinema of the 1950s and 1960s, but viewed with a modern sensibility, to give the film a distinctive and stylized feel. Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux makes scenes glow with ephereal painterly light. The music is by US composer John Adams (the first time his music has been used on a soundtrack), which greatly enhances the film’s operatic and fairytale qualities.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great food in film post! I thought this was a visually stunning movie, both in food and scenery.

    I write about film and food too. You should also check out the movie "Today's Special" -