Films about legendary and perfectionist chefs, and a chef who also happens to be a rat, are just some of the delectable movies in the Foodie Film Festival running Nov. 4-13 at the Jane Pickens Theater.
The diverse 12-film lineup, which boasts such classics as the romantic comedy “Mystic Pizza” and the Oscar-winning Danish film “Babette’s Feast,” is presented in partnership with Discover Newport in support of Newport Restaurant Week.
Two pre-release films will be shown, “The Art of Eating; the Life of M.F.K. Fisher,” which just premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival [last] month, and “Love Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter,”’ which will be released later in November nationally.
“There will be many experiences built around the films, such as food tastings and offers, book selections from Charter Books in the lobby, live music, plus a food truck outside for ‘Mystic Pizza,’ to name a few,” said Kathy Staab, owner of the Jane Pickens Theater.
Julie Grant, digital marketing and special projects manager at Discover Newport, said the celebration of food and films is part of “our goal of encouraging visitors and residents to experience the talent of our local restaurants and businesses.”
“We are bringing a lot to the table this Newport Restaurant Week,” she said, including more than 50 unique restaurant week deals and promotions.
For fans of film and food, the premiere of two new documentaries is a real treat. While many food enthusiasts are likely to be familiar with acclaimed writer M.F.K. Fisher, those who are not will find the new documentary to be a revelation.
Fisher, who died in 1992 at age 83, was a one-of-a-kind food writer long before that was even a thing. Before Fisher, “Culinary writing in America in the 1940s and ‘50s was practically nonexistent,” says Jacques Pepin, one of many illustrious chefs interviewed in the film.
In a career spanning more than 60 years, Fisher wrote books, essays and hundreds of stories for The New Yorker, as well as produced the respected English translation of Brillat-Savarin’s book “The Physiology of Taste.”
The daughter of a newspaper editor and publisher who was born Mary Frances Kennedy, she used her initials because of bias against women writers. Like her friend, Julia Child, Fisher left her native California and found her life’s calling while living and dining in France with her husband in the 1930s.
She paved the way for nonfiction writing that elegantly used food and cooking as a metaphor for sex, emotion and pleasure. Food writer Ruth Reichl cites Fisher’s memorable description of peeling and eating a tangerine as a meditation on observing, savoring simple pleasures, and living fully in the moment.
Some of the same celebrity chefs, such as Alice Waters, also appear in “Love Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter,” a compelling chronicle of another food maverick. Trotter, who died in 2013 at age 54, evolved from young culinary enthusiast to bold visionary in the 1990s, bringing European cuisine and style to American restaurant dining.
For 25 years he shepherded his innovative Chicago restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s, into a global phenomenon. It earned a coveted three starts from the Michelin guide, then unheard of for an American restaurant, and Trotter became a star among the first generation of celebrity chefs.
His contemporaries, such as Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck, talk about Trotter’s brilliance, drive and demons and how he put Charlie Trotter’s on the cultural map.
With all the drama of a fiction film, the documentary, through archival footage and interviews, details the ego, in-fighting and economic forces that finally led to the closing of Charlie Trotter’s and the downfall of its creator.
Also on the menu is “Ratatouille,” the animated gem from Disney and Pixar. The kids will be amused by the story of a culinary rat’s hijinks, while adults will be moved by a sophisticated understanding of how food is tied so deeply to childhood memory.
The festival offers the chance to see another children’s classic on the big screen with the 1971 version of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Based on Roald Dahl’s book, the musical stars the one and only Gene Wilder as the original candy man.
The 1996 award-winning hit, “Big Night,” is co-director and star Stanley Tucci’s love letter to a family restaurant called Paradise run by Italian immigrant brothers in New Jersey in the 1950s. Tucci plays Secondo, the restaurant manager, with Tony Shalhoub as his older brother, the brilliant chef Primo. The brothers hope their struggling restaurant will get a boost when they’re told that popular singer Louis Prima plans to dine at Paradise after a local performance.
Tucci also turns up as Paul Child in “Julie and Julia,” starring Meryl Streep as inimitable French chef Julia Child. The deliciously tender comedy, writer-director Nora Ephron’s last movie before she died in 2012, follows Child as the only woman at the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris in the 1950s to the publication of her seminal “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 1961.