Food in the Movies
Although food has been part of motion pictures since the silent era, for the most part food has been treated with about as much respect as movie extras: It’s always been there on the screen but seldom noticed. From the very beginning, the marginalization of food was based on practical reasons—the cost and the inconvenience of having to place food in exactly the same position in scenes that might require five, 10, or as many as 20 takes.
To document how food has been used in movies from the silent era to the present, the authors reviewed over 500 American and foreign films and found that filmmakers had settled on three basic ways to treat food. First, food has been used as a prop and in these situations it’s usually obscured by the camera or ignored by the actors who busy themselves with other things to help advance the plot. Second, food has been used as a transition device to compress time so that a meal that might ordinarily take a half hour to eat is completed in a matter of seconds through the use of creative editing techniques. Third, food has been used as a symbol or metaphor to make a dramatic point or to reveal an aspect of an actor’s character, mood or thought process.
The final chapter is dedicated exclusively to films released theatrically since the late 1980s—like <I>Tampopo, Babette’s Feast</I> and <I>Like Water for Chocolate</I>—that treat food as the star of the film, thus creating food films as a new genre. A filmography is included that lists the film’s title, year of release, distributor, producer, director, screenwriter, cinematographer and cast, along with a brief description of how food was used in the film.