El Bulli: Cooking In Progress

  • Year:2010
  • Rating:M
  • Director:Gereon Wetzel
  • Cast:Ferran Adrià, Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch
  • Release Date:October 13, 2011
  • Distributor:Madman
  • Running time:109 minutes
  • Film Worth:$13.00
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

It’s intermittently fascinating, but this strictly fly-on-the-wall doco sometimes feels tedious and soulless.

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In July this year, the most famous restaurant in the world, El Bulli, closed its doors. Head chef, Ferran Adrià, considered by many to be the leader in culinary innovation, claimed that they were losing money. That's hard to believe considering the two million annual requests that the Michelin three-star Spanish restaurant receives, not to mention its countless commercial endorsements. The other reason suspected was the weight of expectation: while El Bulli only served 8,000 diners per season, those patrons were treated to a three-hour, thirty-plus-course tasting menu. It was a sensory adventure, and one that provided a glimpse into the future of cooking, as the techniques refined here would find their way into restaurant kitchens around the world.

Gereon Wetzel's El Bulli: Cooking In Progress chronicles the restaurant over the course of a year. Half of this is spent at the restaurant (famous for its short six-month season), and the other half in a Barcelonan laboratory, where Adrià and his team of men (where are the female chefs?!) develop the flavours for next season's menu. Endlessly tweaking their formulas, and documenting everything on computers, these chefs often seem closer to scientists. The film raises interesting questions: What is fine dining and where is it headed? And is the joke on diners when they're flocking for flavours that are merely air, and in awe over raisins that look like pumpkin, and pumpkin that looks like raisins?

With reality television programmes (we're looking at you MasterChef) whetting audiences' appetites for shows about food, those expecting brisk, exciting viewing may be disappointed. With no narration and the barest minimum of context given, this is strictly fly-on-the-wall stuff, which sees Wetzel capture scenes in the military-like kitchen in long, and sometimes tedious, stretches. It's intermittently fascinating, but for a film about the world's formerly most exciting restaurant, it all feels a little soulless.

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