Lifestyle

Julia: A richly satisfying, soup-to-nuts look at a larger-than-life culinary icon


Julia (PG, 93mins) Directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West ****

This endearing and enlightening soup-to-nuts tale beautifully captures the essence of a truly larger-than-life figure.

Through her cookbooks and TV shows, Julia Child introduced homemakers to the joy of French cooking, breaking complicated recipes down into easy-to-follow constituent parts.

Even decades after they first aired, programmes like The French Chef have an addictive quality to them, as Child entertainingly wades into some truly tricky dishes with a winning mix of casual insouciance and ruthless efficiency, unafraid of making mistakes along the way.

READ MORE:
* Julia: Filmmakers lift the lid on making soup-to-nuts doco on celebrity chef
* Cliff Curtis’ Murina, Kiwi co-production Night Raiders among Toronto Fest’s best
* Celebrity chef Julia Child’s derelict US home will sparkle again

As Julia details, that first immensely popular series, which ran for a decade from 1963, really was a high-wire act. Using a Boston Gas Company’s demonstration kitchen, it was recorded live with no editing, no teleprompter and required “a lot of creative work with duct tape”. That breathless quality that gives Child’s shows their vibrancy? It was because she never memorised anything – she was pretty much ad-libbing the whole time.

But her unlikely rise to television stardom and immortality (she was 51 when she made her debut and 88 when filming her final series) is just one aspect of her many storied life.

Starting out in her early 50s, Julia Child hosted wildly popular television cooking shows for almost four decades.

Supplied

Starting out in her early 50s, Julia Child hosted wildly popular television cooking shows for almost four decades.

Through the use of surprisingly intimate archival photos (many taken by her beloved husband Paul), rich audio and video of the woman herself and interviews with family members and colleagues, we learn how she initially led a “leisurely butterfly life” and how, by her own admission, if she’d followed her father’s advice and married a scion of the Los Angeles Times publishing empire, she would have “played tennis, golf and been an alcoholic”.

But the young, 6ft 3 Child wanted a life of adventure, joining America’s Office of Strategic Services with the intention of becoming a spy. Instead, a posting to Ceylon as a typist clerk eventuated in her only having eyes for her co-worker, graphic artist Paul Child. Overcoming her dislike of his “unbecoming moustache”, the pair became inseparable, as he was posted first to China and then to France in the aftermath of World War II.

It was there that she fell in love with French cooking, citing in particular a life-changing dish involving sole with butter.

“I never got over it, they take food so seriously,” she recounts in one interview.

Joining 11 G.I.s in enrolling at Paris’ famed Cordon Bleu cooking school, Child learned the basics and then was determined to spread the gospel, starting first with her American friends after their time in France was over, and then via an ambitious cookbook project that painfully, eventually became the seminal Mastering the Art of French Cooking. That’s also when the opportunity to appear on a Boston TV book show transformed her life.

More used to having academics deliver treatises of limited interested, the producers were shocked when Child asked if she could demonstrate how to make an omelette. Her appearance was a hit, the station’s phone lines were overloaded and a cooking show pilot swiftly ordered.

Through archival footage and stills, interviews with family and friends and the words of the woman herself, the documentary Julia beautifully captures the essence of a truly larger-than-life figure.

Supplied

Through archival footage and stills, interviews with family and friends and the words of the woman herself, the documentary Julia beautifully captures the essence of a truly larger-than-life figure.

As with their awarding-winning 2018 look at supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (RBG), documentarian duo Julie Cohen and Betsy West do a superb job of corralling all the wonderful, sometimes hilarious tales and vivid archival material into a satisfying narrative, while also looking at what Child achieved in a wider context.

She was a woman who not only attempted to pull American households away from their obsession with convenience foods – the canned soups, the spam and the jello salads – and persuade them to create and consume meals with “style, flair and imagination”, she was also an advocate for planned parenthood and, in her later years, a tireless fundraiser for the Aids Foundation.

Julia and her beloved husband Paul Child

Supplied

Julia and her beloved husband Paul Child

This warm and witty portrait paints her not only as an important figure of the American feminist movement, but also an incorrigible flirt and voracious eater. “She had the fastest fork of anyone I’ve ever eaten with,” fellow TV chef Jacques Pepin chuckles.

Thrown in some mouth-watering food porn, especially over the end credits, and the result is richly satisfying and absorbing viewing.

Julia is now screening in select cinemas.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *