Kings of Pastry
Lauren and I got to the theater for this one a little late and had to sit on one of the couches up front. The weird couple who came in right after us had to do the same. The lady, who was exactly the kind of person you'd expect to see at a movie about French pastries, kept going, "Oh, that looks good." and "Mmmm." and "I'd eat it that, wouldn't you eat that, honey?" Her husband didn't say a word the whole time. He just sat there and put off a driver's ed instructor vibe. It was a little distracting but a little great because now I'm writing about it in a blog.
Kings of Pastry was actually really good. I enjoy documentaries quite a bit but lately I have been noticing a sort of troubling pattern. Documentaries are recently falling into two categories: Look at the Crazy and Look at the Sadness. Some documentaries can do both, Manda Bala and Paradise Lost come to mind, and be better for it. Most feel one note and boring. Kings of pastry belongs in neither category. It tells the story of someone doing something interesting which is what I want documentaries to do. I will still watch the other sorts but this is the sort of documentary I really enjoy.
It follows three chefs preparing for the MOF which is an incredibly intense pastry competition in France. Winners of the MOF are renowned throughout the world as master craftsmen. Maybe only four or five are awarded the honor every four years. There were a lot of images of grown men crying in this movie which really walks the fine line of touching and pathetic. In this case you can see the pressure these chefs are under and understand why they might cry. But why are the judges crying? That was pretty funny. (The worst case of pathetic grown men crying occurs in Anvil, which I hated. It was all man tears and fanny packs)
Overall this is a pretty heartbreaking movie. The amazing yet ugly sugar sculptures are so fragile and handled with such care that I almost felt like covering my eyes with my hand every time they started working with them. At one point, one of the contestant's sculpture shatters and there is a collective gasp from the audience unlike anything I've ever heard in a movie. It's definitely my favorite part of the movie.
D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hedgedus do a good job building tension and letting it ease out without bursting. Pennebaker was the dude who made both Don't Look Back and Monterey Pop as well as a whole bunch of other music documentaries and Kings of Pastry is a nice addition to his oeuvre.