Pre-Revolutionary France. The spectre of the Revolution looms over the bourgeoisie. An aristocratic house holds a banquet, after which the Duke of Chamfort (Benjamin Lavernhe) fires his talented and devoted head chef Pierre Manceron (Grégory Gadebois), after some pompous guests exchange a few pithy comments over minor menu quibbles. Having headed back to his country house, the crestfallen chef meets the mysterious Louise (Isabelle Carré), who inspires him to create France’s very first restaurant, a place that caters to people of all classes.
Director Éric Besnard had me on board from one of the first and Frenchiest of French lines shouted in the kitchen by Manceron to his staff as a culinary order to live by: “Work, energy and more butter!” Besnard cooks up a tasty period piece about how the Revolution starts at the dinner table; it doesn’t reinvent the historical drama but does what it does very well. He keeps the political matters simmering in the background, and wisely so: the plot never gets side-tracked from the main story, allowing Gadebois and Carré to work their magic, and the second half of the film does spice things up with the introduction of a darker revenge story.
While this delightful fantasy ultimately doesn’t do for food what Patrice Leconte’s Ridicule did for bon mots, Délicieux remains a gentle, warm and yes, delicious, feast for the eyes. Oh, and for those planning to watch it on an empty stomach, prepare to hear your insides rumble.
Délicieux (À La Carte) / D: Éric Besnard (France, 2021), with Grégory Gadebois, Isabelle Carré. Starts Nov 25.