Step Up To The Plate
- Director:Paul Lacoste
- Cast:Michel Bras, Sébastian Bras
- Release Date:November 29, 2012
- Running time:86 minutes
- Film Worth:$19.00
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An intimate, immaculate doco that ends up a stirring but unsentimental meditation on tradition and family.
Paul Lacoste’s sublime documentary follows a year in the life of acclaimed French chef, Michel Bras, as he prepares to hand over the reins of his restaurant to his son, Sebastien. From the opening scene, depicting the painstaking assembly of a sixty-ingredient salad, Lacoste has produced a sophisticated, meditative, and visually arresting tribute to the French gastronomical tradition.
There are no gushing customers, pedantic “foodies”, or tedious narration. Instead, this is a spare, fly-on-the-wall chronicle. We learn how Michel was taught to cook by his garrulous mother, and how the infant Sebastien, dressed in apron and toque, had little choice but to follow in his father’s footsteps. Sebastien’s grandmother confidently declares that her grandson, Alban, will also be a chef. When we see little Alban cubing an avocado, it’s clear that resistance is futile. As the seasons change, so too does the dynamic between father and son. Michel knows that he must retreat from the kitchen and let “Seba” take the restaurant on. The scenes in which they create and discuss dishes are a fascinating melange of science and art. Each dish is daubed with symbolism, tracing an arc from sweet to savoury, and the passing of the culinary baton from parent to child.
Much of the film is spent in the countryside, with cinematographer, Yvan Quehec, brilliantly capturing the changing landscape. It’s a vivid metaphor: Michel’s sun is setting, and he must take heart in the fact that Sebastien’s is rising to its zenith. The imagery is rich in emotion, but so deftly measured that it avoids any hint of sentimentality. As the world gorges itself on competitive cooking shows, Lacoste takes us back to a time when food was shared and savoured and remembered for what it is: sustenance.