Let’s start with a film from before this retro-futuristic wave, but which gave us culinary nostalgia served on a silver platter. Soylent Green, a film directed by Richard Fleischer in 1973, describes a world ravaged by pollution and global warming and dominated by the multinational Soylent which makes pink, blue or green crackers (the best), supposedly made with plankton to feed an overcrowded world. In this prophetic film – it takes place in 2022 (in just five years!) – Charlton Heston plays a New York policeman who discovers, during his latest investigation, that the raw material of these delicious crackers is none other than the flesh of people. who agreed to be euthanized in exchange for watching a spectacular 3D cutscene of what life on earth looked like before their blessed era.
Director Claude Zidi did not go so far in his 1976 comedy. In this film, Louis de Funès plays a food critic, Charles Duchemin, of the famous Guide Duchemin, who one day learns that Tricatel, French king of fast food , wants to rule the world… restaurants. In Zidi’s film, Tricatel represents the industrialist Jacques Borel, inventor of the French restaurant Wimpy and of the rest stop who was one of the apostles of the French junk food revolution of the 1970s. In the film L’Aile or the thigh, its factory, in which Duchemin and his son (played by Coluche) infiltrate, makes chicken in the form of toothpaste and wrapped in a papier-mâché skin, as well as salad with plastic pancakes. The denunciation ends there, but the fact that Tricatel intends to get rid of Duchemin and his son in one of the cans he makes leaves the viewer to speculate (especially after Soylent Green).
Fast forward ten years: In his 1985 cult classic Brazil, director Terry Gilliam gives us the first film to use a steampunk aesthetic, with a mix of sci-fi and strict Victorian-era social codes. In this totalitarian society, love is forbidden. The hero, an employee of the Ministry of Information, caught between his romantic dreams and the conflict with the bureaucratic machine, ends up rebelling against the powers that be and flees into a dreamlike universe. During one scene, while he is having lunch with his mother in a chic restaurant, we get a glimpse of the place of gastronomy in this universe which recalls 1984. The butler, French of course, asks the guests. choose a number then come back with dishes whose labels bear the name and photo of the corresponding recipe: ‘braised veal with wine sauce’, ‘duck with orange’, ‘shrimp with mayonnaise’. But the only thing on the plate is pale, gelatinous oatmeal, a cruel joke that no one seems wiser. They are no more aware than when a bomb explodes shakes the restaurant seconds later, leaving the survivors oblivious to the sudden appearance of a screen that comes between the dinner table and the crime scene. In this world of appearances, this is reality, whether it is food or politics.
Wild steak tartare
Delicatessen, the opus by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet from 1991, plunges the viewer into an alternative universe, a French version of steam-punk where the German occupation period replaces the Victorian era as a cultural reference, with its market black and its fashion. stacked heels and purple hair worn with fascinators. The two directors enter even darker territory, by making Jean-Claude Dreyfus’ butchery a den of cannibal activity. Tenants who mysteriously disappear find themselves in the meat grinder, ensuring a constant and welcome supply of hash. Four years later, in City of lost children, Jeunet and Caro set the scene for a world now oscillating between the world of Dickens and that of Jules Verne (without forgetting the imprint of Jean-Paul Gaultier), where misery and brutality rule human relations. In this society where nobody respects anything at all, not even the dreams of children, gluttony is the only way to fulfillment. Witness, for example, a little boy who plunges an enormous dried sausage into a jar of jam and devours it with relish. Such bad taste is even worse than cannibalism, Duchemin the character of Louis de Funès would have said if he had witnessed this scene, but at least it is completely in accordance with the temporal lags at work in the landscape futuristic.