Judge Franck Tabouring's soul looks like a dark chocolate brownie covered with a strawberry glaze.
Life happens when you least expect it.
After celebrating universal acclaim with powerful films such as Head-On and The Edge of Heaven, talented German director Fatih Akin decided to take a short break from heavy drama and explore the lighter side of the cinematic world by creating a small feel-good comedy. From his creative mind, Soul Kitchen was born, and while it's by no means Akin's best movie, it still ranks pretty high in the realm of simple German comedies capable of enchanting their target audiences through high energy and irresistible humor.
Facts of the Case
Akin's main character in Soul Kitchen is Zinos Kazantsakis (Adam Bousdoukos), a chaotic German-Greek chef whose already stressful existence is just about to take a turn for the worse. His struggling Hamburg restaurant is desperate for a total makeover, his charming girlfriend Nadine (Pheline Roggan) is gearing up to relocate to Shanghai, and his criminal brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu) is begging him for a job. On top of that, as if things weren't bad enough already, Zinos ends up sustaining a herniated disc that further lowers his chances to gain control of his growing dilemma…
A culturally rich farce boasting a large dose of delightful humor and eccentric characters incapable of tackling all the challenges life throws at them, Fatih Akin's Soul Kitchen draws an engaging portrait of a young man struggling to figure out what he really wants and where he belongs. Torn between his desire to relaunch his unprofitable eatery and his love for his departing girlfriend, Zinos slips into a whole lot of trouble as pressure mounts and he's forced to assess his priorities and reevaluate his dreams and responsibilities. In this sense, the movie does a fabulous job chronicling the journey of a lost human being desperately trying to get back onto the right track, make up for previous mistakes and change things accordingly for a better future.
In this sense, Soul Kitchen does at first sound like a "been there, seen that" type of feel-good film, but thankfully enough, what this one has going for it is Fatih Akin, whose unique storytelling capability and intriguing way of portraying compelling characters and hilarious family dynamics freshens up the concept without falling victim to annoying clichés. The bottom line is, Soul Kitchen is a very funny movie, and even though the degree of humor goes back and forth between extremely silly and subtle, the laughs keep coming and the story keeps on flowing smoothly as we watch Zinos confront his unexpected troubles. Hiring an über-aggressive chef to attract new customers and letting his unpredictable brother run the restaurant while he makes plans to visit his girlfriend in China are just two of Zinos' rushed decisions that eventually unleash a whole new series of amusing catastrophes destined to keep the film's energy and charm alive until it's time for dessert and the end credits start rolling.
Soul Kitchen certainly wouldn't taste as well if it weren't for the fast-paced dialogue created by Akin and co-writer Bousdoukos. Watching and listening to their characters race trough their lines all while preserving the authenticity of their performances is a huge pleasure for spectators, who really won't find the time to settle down and search for any dragging moments throughout the plot. Vibrant conversations, nice food, a few beautifully shot montages, and a superb soundtrack are just the right ingredients for 100 minutes of cinematic delight.
Essentially for the success of this film also is the brilliant cast, which includes a several big names in the German cinema world. Bousdoukos, for instance, is the perfect choice for the role of lead character Zinos. His look, posture, and comic timing all play major roles in the way he delivers his fine performance as the likable chef who briefly loses touch with reality as his broken heart fuels his irrational behavior. Then there's Moritz Bleibtreu, whose undeniable talent has made him one of Germany's most popular actors. He plays Zinos' arrogant brother with just the right attitude, walking around like he owns the world but completely devoid of responsibilities. Birol Ünel excels as Zinos' new head chef, and Wotan Wilke Möhring puts on a great show as a dude trying everything in his power to get Zinos to sell his establishment. While the writing in Soul Kitchen is the film's big strength, the cast really takes everything to the next level.
The DVD offers viewers a sublime 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of the film, complete with strong colors, clean contrast, and a sharp image throughout. The audio transfer deserves some attention as well, and both soundtrack and dialogue are balanced very well. Special features are scarce, however, and those of you expecting an audio commentary will be disappointed. The only thing you'll find in the bonus section is a very informative behind-the-scenes look with a pretty amusing interview with Akin and Bousdoukos.
Fans of Fatih Akin's work will immediately fall in love with Soul Kitchen, whose interesting characters, delicious humor, and fine cast coexist in perfect harmony to create a highly entertaining German comedy celebrating the unexpected ups and downs of life and love. As simple as it is, this is a joyful little gem of a movie I can only recommend.
Tasty, and not guilty.
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