News & Features

Foodie Film – "Three Stars" Doesn't Shine as Brightly as It Should

January 05 2012 - 11:38 AM

Three Michelin star chefs are the rock stars of the dining world. They may not all be household names, but many, like Copenhagen's Rene Redzepi and New York's Jean Georges Vongerichten, are pretty darn close. A 90-minute German documentary, Three Stars, screening now at Facets Multimedia on Fullerton, offers a broad look at three-star chefs around the world, from Redezpi and Vongerichten to Tokyo's Hideki Ishikawa and Milan's Nadia Santini. While the director, Lutz Hachmeister, has incredible access to the kitchens of nine chefs on three continents, the film left me hungry rather than satisfied.

To be sure, there were moments during the film when I sat up in my seat, put down the tub of popcorn, and turned to my fellow audience members to whisper my reaction. The tension and interest in the film comes from the comparisons and contrasts between the subjects: the almost monkish devotion of Hideki Ishikawa, the star power of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the quiet ease of Nadia Santimi, and of course, the bold French confidence of Michelin director Jean-Luc Naret. But the film fails to push these contrasts as far as they could go. Just when I felt as though I was gaining some insight into the psychology of one of the chefs, the focus would abruptly shift to a bland scene of a chef foraging or sous-chefs scurrying in the kitchen.

The film  ignored many of the obvious chances to capture the beauty of the captivating plated dishes prepared by these world-class dishes, instead giving us shots of the kitchen and over-exposed views of the plates which looked washed-out and bland under harsh lights. I got the sense that the film crew tiptoed around these chefs, not quite pushing them to explain themselvse or to justify their statements. When the film introduces the suicide of Bernard Loiseau, a French chef who in 2003 killed himself amid rumors that he would lose his three-star status, the director allows the chefs to express their condolences, but then quickly moves on. This was a powerful topic that could have sparked debate over the gravitas given to the Michelin system, but the director drops the subject and moves on without exploring much else.

Tonight is the last night of the film's run at Facets, and for $9, it's still a better 90-minute experience than Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Three Stars is a documentary best viewed with a group of culinary-minded friends so that you can continue to debate the issues the film left off the screen.

–Kate Bernot