France makes so many movies that it’s impossible for them all to get released. Of the seven Best Film nominees at the César Awards, the “French Oscars”, only four have received an Australian release. Amazingly, 70 French films have already been released into French cinemas this year, which makes it all the more galling that Australian Francophiles get such limp, lifeless fluff like Le Chef. So often these frothy French tales of (apparent) swoony romance are called “soufflés” for the way they remain lighter than air, except in this case the soufflé is flavourless and deflates in an instant. Even its bland, innocuous title seems disinterested and we haven’t even gotten to the actors, the editing, the writing, the… well, you get the picture.
Jacky Bonnot (Michaël Youn) is a hot-tempered cook whose kitchen skills are matched only by his persistence in wanting to improve upon the menu of wherever he works. Fired once again, he takes a job as a painter to make an income for his pregnant girlfriend (Raphaëlle Agogué, The Round-Up), but somehow falls into a position working alongside famous chef, Alexandre Lagarde (Jean Reno, Leon). Cue frantic misadventures! But seriously, everything you could possibly expect out of this movie happens. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s barely 80 minutes long.
There isn’t a single scene, character, or plot development found within Le Chef that isn’t dripping with cliché and contrivance. When the screenplay and direction of Daniel Cohen isn’t straining to be as vanilla as possible, the film has Youn and Reno don racist Japanese garb and kabuki make-up in a dunderheaded undercover mission, or it’s forgetting its own continuity, or concocting artificial drama out of thin air. Apparently in a fevered rush to finish as quickly as possible, the editing skims over every scene in the briefest manner possible like skipping stones on a pond. Even the romantic climax is in such a hurry to be over and done with that it ends with a fade to black before the couple have even planted their lips onto each other’s.
There is so little of any consequence going on in Le Chef that it goes right past being innocently bland to offensively empty. It is hard to see what this director felt like he had to say with this movie since there’s little of any worth in its short runtime. Meanwhile, it’s easily digestible – Oh the food puns! Stop me now – foodie story makes it ideal for the international masses. Le Chef is, I presume, perfect fodder for lame-brained cinemagoers that want to feel cultured for having seen a foreign film without any of the hard work that goes with having to think. One doesn’t even need to read the subtitles to realise Le Chef has no meat on its tired, creaking bones.
Le Chef is released on 14th of June
Director: Daniel Cohen
Cast: Jean Reno, Michaël Youn, Raphaëlle Agogué, Geneviève Casile, André Penvern, Julien Boisselier, Salomé Stévenin, Serge Larivière, Issa Doumbia, Bun-hay Mean, Pierre Vernier, and Santiago Segura.