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aka - Politiki Kouzina
Greece 2003
Directed by
Tassos Boulmetis
108 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Touch Of Spice, A

Synopsis: Fanis is a young Greek boy growing up in Costantinoupolis, whose grandfather, a storekeeper and culinary philosopher teaches him that both food and life require a little salt to give them flavor. Deported to Athens along with tens of thousands of Greeks who left Istanbul in the 1950s, 35 years later he travels back to his birthplace to reunite with his grandfather and his first love.

Food films have a wonderful way of showing us how simple are the true pleasures of life. They deal lovingly with Nature's bounty, human creativity and the joys of shared experiences. A Touch of Spice is a worthy addition to this category. It uses food, and in particular, spices, as a central theme uniting the small and big things of life. One of its main tenets is the beautiful thought that "hidden within the word gastronomy is astronomy", a thought which is strikingly realized in its mythic closing scene, itself book-ending the opening. Both moments partake of the 'magical realism' style which recurs in this richly multi-faceted yet unassuming film.

Written by the director, the film clearly deals with his own experiences and one assumes that Fanis, played as an adult by the ruggedly handsome George Corraface, is a stand-in for Boulmetis himself. Told largely in flashback the film cleverly interweaves Fanis's personal history with that of his times. Although the latter will mean much more to those who also lived through them, those who have not, will still be able to empathise with the secondary theme of loss and estrangement which is its principal consequence here. Likewise, Boulmetis also manages to sweeten his melancholy romance with touches of comedy and to spice the film with recurring motifs, extending its formal aspects beyond the basic 3 course division. Presentation is evidently as important as taste in this eclectic cinematic cuisine.

The hard-hearted may object that it is an idealized view of life and death. That is true but it is ideality in the best sense - uplifting and grounding at the same time. After seeing this film you'll want to rush home and prepare a banquet for your friends and loved ones.




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