Noma: My Perfect Storm
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Redzepi seems pretentious in his very lack of pretension…
Noma is a restaurant in Copenhagen, which has repeatedly won an award as the world’s best. This documentary is nominally about Noma, but its overwhelmingly predominant focus is on chef, founder and co-owner Rene Redzepi. Foodies may be disappointed, but for the rest of us the emphasis on personality rather than menu renders it more watchable — particularly given that some of the haute cuisine involves such fare as fermented blood and living ants.
Noma’s original and unique claim to fame was that its dishes contained only ingredients available in Nordic countries – though not all literally from those countries, a practical impossibility in an area that’s covered in snow for five months of the year. The 38-year-old Redzepi himself is of Macedonian descent, and has understandable residual anger about his experience of racism in Denmark. Unfortunately he’s also irascible in less defensible ways, given to referring to all manner of people as “assholes” or “motherfuckers”, and clearly a very hard taskmaster. Some of the footage of his intimidated employees is excruciating, whether they be dutifully laughing at his ‘jokes’ or simply cowed into nervous silence at pep talk sessions. At one point Redzepi asks a hapless underling why he is just standing there “looking like a deer in headlights” – hardly surprising when the poor guy is being bawled out in front of a film crew.
Redzepi seems pretentious in his very lack of pretension, and makes great play of loudly disdaining bow ties and silver cutlery. Aside from his own explosive manner, the dramatic quotient here consists of reminiscences about the time a virus at the restaurant made sixty customers ill, and supposed suspense about whether Noma can bag the best restaurant award yet again.
Food is not an inherently cinematic subject, being fundamentally about the sense of taste rather than that of sight. But, in its own terms, this doco isn’t too bad at all.