El Bulli: Cooking in Progress - Review
Yesterday I saw the documentary by German director Gereon Wetzel called "El Bulli: Cooking in Progress".
I have been looking forward to this movie for a long time now, having always failed to score a reservation at the Spanish restaurant, and being somewhat fascinated by "the man who changed everything" I really thought this film would enlighten me even more to Ferran Adria's cooking.
I feel that I've learned more about El Bulli by watching No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain than by watching this film. The filmmaker decided to show all the processes of El Bulli, from the creation of the dishes, the experimentation, and finally the service in the restaurant serving those dishes, in a minimalist manner. We're just a visitor looking at everything from a window. Why not ? But instead of choosing to show the emotional aspect of creating a dish, the creativity involved, this documentary shows a bunch of sous-chef scared to death by Adria, trying to come up with innovative dishes in a stupid and boring matter (we have sweet potatoes.... humm let's juice them three different ways and we'll see what we come up with...), and then frightened like little squirrels, looking at Adria's reaction as he tastes and often rejects the ideas like an obnoxious boss always more interested in his iPod than the next dish...
Where is the Ferran Adria that speaks about his dishes and discoveries with eyes glinting like a child ? Is this how he really is ? Maybe it is... maybe all those other documentaries, shows and speeches are a fabrication of a Ferran Adria persona... but I have trouble believing it. I think the director's intent was to focus on the hierarchy, the military relationship between the chefs and cooks, and to create a feeling of fear, coldness, strictness and most horribly... seriousness around Adria's cooking.
Gereon Wetzel admitted having never been to a high end dining restaurant, and even not being that much interested in food. So for me he missed the point. He missed the point Anthony Bourdain tries to shove down our throats a little bit too hard I must admit, but at least Anthony got it. It's all about the emotion, the memories of food from childhood, the whimsical but not in a shallow "I tickle your toes" way, the whimsical that tickles your guts, tickles your soul...
I thought I didn't like this film because I already knew so much about El Bulli and Ferran Adria, but I saw it with friends who didn't know anything about it and felt as I did... It is long, boring, and you don't learn anything meaningful.
The best part of the film is the end, when we are shown photographs of all the dishes made. Those are stunning, and tell more about the food made at El Bulli than the almost 2 hours that precede them...
El Bulli is no more, and this film should have been the legacy of what El Bulli was about... how sad.