Cooking at the World’s End: A Journey Through Galicia’s Nouvelle Cuisine 2017
Distributed by Film Movement
Produced by Omnibus Entertainment
Directed by Alberto Baamonde
DVD, color, 88 min.
College - General Adult
Chefs, Galicia, Spain
Date Entered: 12/08/2017Reviewed by Sheila Intner, Professor Emerita, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Simmons College GSLIS at Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, MA
One might think that a film subtitled “a journey through Galicia’s nouvelle cuisine” would show Galician chefs preparing dishes that reflect the current culture of that section of Spain. In fact, the film has many all-too-brief shots of exactly that. But, instead of watching a chef begin with raw ingredients, go through the cooking procedures, and produce a finished dish, one sees no more than a few seconds of the chef putting a few final touches on a dish in a restaurant kitchen. Viewers do not see what the dishes are, or how they go from raw ingredients to the table. Only a small bit of the very last part of plating the dish is shown, and not very much of that.
These disjointed bits of actual cooking are interspersed with much longer segments showing the meetings and activities of an organization of Galician chefs called Grupo Nove. We see the chefs meeting and arguing about whether and how to admit new members—as individual chefs or as restaurant representatives—whether and how to alter the articles of their organization, and what their role should be in promoting fine cuisine in Galicia. The chefs proclaim their commitment to using local ingredients and supporting local growers, and give high marks to local products. Several of the chef-members of Grupo Nove complain that non-Galician Spaniards lack knowledge about Galicia and its products, that the territory has a poor reputation, and suffers from economic problems. The cost of fine dining, though it may be justified, is more than Galicians are willing to spend, and the chefs’ restaurants cannot make a living without charging appropriate prices and increasing their clientele.
Much time is spent viewing Galician fields, mountains, streams, cattle, grapes, and the like, with several of the chefs. The men alternate between describing the land, animals, and produce in loving terms and cursing their problems with those who don’t know and appreciate Galician agriculture.
Because the spoken dialog is in Spanish and Galician, and the English subtitles are incomplete and disappear quickly from the screen, it is very difficult for English-speakers to follow what anyone is saying and what the content of their conversation means.
The camerawork is smooth and well-paced some of the time, especially in the landscape scenes, and jerky and unpleasant at other times, making it unpleasant to watch. As mentioned above, the subtitles are unsatisfactory. There is strange spacing at the end of sentences, missing letters at the end of sentences, and long spells without any subtitles, or, occasionally, phrases like “indistinct chatter.” Most aggravating, they are not on the screen long enough to be read.