Combustible Celluloid Review - Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros (2023), n/a, Frederick Wiseman, Michel Troisgros, César Troisgros, Léo Troisgros
Combustible Celluloid
With: Michel Troisgros, César Troisgros, Léo Troisgros
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Frederick Wiseman
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 240
Date: 11/22/2023

Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros (2023)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Fromage the Heart

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Certainly one of the greatest documentary filmmakers of all time (if not the greatest), 93-year-old Frederick Wiseman has, for over fifty years, made films about institutions, covering everything from high schools to strip clubs, from museums to department stores. Now he gets to a subject that has been long coming, the food movie. The result is arguably his most visual movie since Boxing Gym, a more active film, with more colorful rewards for the eye.

Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros focuses on Chef Michel Troisgros of the Michelin 3-star La Maison Troisgros, in Roanne, France, and his son Cesar, who manages the day-to-day operations. We get magnificent footage of the kitchen, which seems to run with smooth precision, and with very little yelling or panicking. We watch intricate, artistic plates being built, sometimes with tweezers so that a single strand of saffron can be placed just so.

We also get to sit in on the planning and preparation of dishes. There's a long discussion about whether to include almonds in the sauce for white asparagus, and another long scene in which the spiciness of some kind of kidney/passionfruit dish is debated. We visit the dining room and witness the meticulous attention the customers get as they order, and we get a glimpse of the marvelous cheese cart!

But then Wiseman also takes us to the market for things like watercress and oyster mushrooms, to a winery, a cheese processing plant, and an organic farm. Much of the movie is ultimately about eating sustainably, and thankfully the movie doesn't try to scare us with footage of more gruesome food-factories. It's a celebration. Wiseman's fly-on-the-wall technique is ever-present — he films a tour of the cheese plant, which is probably the closest he's ever come to outright descriptions of or commentary on things — and our pleasure is enhanced by the fact that we are eavesdropping.

Of course, Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros is a food movie, and certainly fans of this genre, amateur and professional chefs, and general foodies will be first to enjoy it. If that's not your cup of tea (or glass of Château Mouton-Rothschild), then there are nearly fifty other Wiseman films to pick from; you owe it to yourself to discover him and his essential work.

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