Feast for the Eyes: A food and wine film festival at St. Anthony Main

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After hosting Latin and Asian film festivals for the past few years, the Film Society of Minneapolis/St. Paul has changed its themed fall series with a delightful new menu of goodies: “Feast For the Eyes,” a food and wine film festival taking place this weekend, October 25-28 at St. Anthony Main Theatre.

There are always a fair number of films released each year that dive into the art of cooking, food, drinks, and restaurants, and while there are plenty of new films in the festival, some of the highlights are some older films that are all classics and are worth revisiting on the big screen. Many of the screenings will be paired with tastings from local eateries (Masu, Robata, and Surdyk’s); not to mention, there are two shorts programs (“Small Bites”) that feature US and international shorts for all tastes with a pre-screening dinner and brunch throughout the weekend.

Kicking off the festival on Thursday, October 25, even before the first film screening takes place, is the opening night feast at 6 p.m. at the Aster Café featuring beer from Indeed Brewing, whiskey from 2 Gingers, and food from the Aster. Once you have digested everything from the pre-dinner shindig, you can make your way to the theater for the Minnesota premiere of Mugaritz BSO (7 p.m.), from director Juantxo Sardon, documenting Spain’s Mugaritz restaurant in Errenteria. It’s considered one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. The documentary follows head chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and his approach to each cuisine along with musician Felipe Ugarte, who studied Aduriz’s methods of preparation and “fused them with the language of music.”

If that isn’t enough, stick around for the 9 p.m. screening of the wonderfully funny and touching 1996 dramedy Big Night, with Tony Shalhoub and Stanely Tucci playing two Italian immigrants who running a failing restaurant until they have one last chance to save their restaurant with a big five-course meal served to celebrities who fill their tables. Big Night is one of the best narrative films in recent memory; not only does it have a terrific cast (Campbell Scott, Minnie Driver, Isabella Rossellini, and Ian Holm) but also, in a rare instance, scrumptious meals that seem to outshine even such fine actors. 

Those who have never seen director Gabriel Axel’s Danish 1987 Oscar-winning film Babette’s Feast (Friday, October 26, 4:30 p.m.) would be wise to take off work early to catch this splendid look into the lives of a small coastal Danish town. Babette, a Parisian cook, is taken in by two sisters whose father has just passed away; the cook begins to serve meals they have never seen. When Babette decides to cook for the villagers, heads are turned by the sheer grace and beauty in this carefully-told story about religion, family, and the healing power of food.

With a title like Dead Sushi (Friday, October 26, 11 p.m.), one can only wonder what “alive sushi” would look or taste like. This comedy/horror film from Japan will likely please the gore fans and might make others squeamish. Deadly sushi is the premise for this late-night entrée: Keiko runs away from her abusive father and seeks shelter from him, only then to come into contact with vengeful researcher Yamada, who has created the deadliest catch, injecting a special serum into his sushi, which then comes alive and attacks its prey. With the tagline, “Hot wasabi action!”, Dead Sushi could be the first of its kind, and perhaps turn anyone off of ever eating the Japanese specialty again.

The most recognizable title in the festival is Pixar’s 2007 underdog story Ratatouille (Saturday, October 27, 2:15 p.m.), in which Remy the rat aspires to be a chef one day. There is one problem: he is a rat who’s torn with his family’s wishes of a different life. He meets a young garbage boy working at the fancy Paris restaurant, and the two come together to create dishes that no one has ever seen or tasted before; suddenly, everything is turned upside-down at the restaurant.  Director Brad Bird (The Iron GiantThe Incredibles) brings impeccable magic, sincerity, and hilarity to this film that won a Best Animated Picture Oscar and is one of best in the Pixar canon.