Jan 4, 2011

Bitter Feast

The seasoning of Bitter Feast is the flexible premise: disgruntled celebrity chef kidnaps asshole blogger who delivered a scathing review belittling his refined culinary artistry. What creates Bitter Feast into the personable account of not vengeance, but rehabilitation is its setting of a soulless cyberspace pseudo-reality and the rabid clicking that leads to this collective unconscious feeling (influenced by anonymous bloggers) morphing into public opinion. In other words, what I say about this film in particular may or may not lead you to subconsciously go out of your way to view this film. This clever revision to the classic kidnap/torture staple of modern horror is in part of director Joe Maggio's utter disgust with a review towards Gordon Ramsay.

"The origins of BITTER FEAST go back to June, 2007. I was reading a Frank Bruni review of Gordon Ramsay's first New York City restaurant, "London Hotel." There was a lassitude in Bruni's writing that gave you the sense he liked the food, but wanted to dislike it, and so he delivered this odd, middling, lazy review, ultimately condemning it for lack of what Bruni considered "the most important thing of all - excitement." It struck me that this was totally ridiculous and unfair. Then I started thinking what I would do to Frank Bruni if I were Gordon Ramsay. After many strange imaginings, I concluded that more than anything else, what Ramsay would probably want is to somehow force Bruni to live in Ramsay's shoes for a bit, to teach him empathy, to force him to care about cooking with the intensity that Ramsay cared about it, and then to randomly and arbitrarily shit all over Bruni's dreams. Thus, BITTER FEAST."

Starting out with a flashback that's revisited several times, each time with a fraction of a revelation, Bitter Feast quickly but barely establishes the inspired Gordon character as a hard-ass with very little patience for his co-star's taunting and dull female sense of humor. This sleight against his art that he presents to a nationwide audience has driven him mad with frustration. This annoying blond character is perhaps the reason why Gordon chose to launch a campaign of terror against uneducated blogger, JT Franks. For a visual image, JT Franks isn't an honest reviewer of any sense - he's a sadist wielding his own shortcomings and grief as a weapon to bring down others with their success. For instance, the pseudo-critic makes no effort to enjoy the tastes and settings offered up to his palate. Scathing review after another, even his own wife realizes that his hobby has taken a wretched route into unnecessary and unreliable tabloid skid marks. To the horror community, this is the equivalent of a third-rate "gorefiend" swearing off Matt Reeve's Let Me In without even acquiring an opinion - it's all boulder-dash to me. The refusal to view a film, one that is well within your own interests all for the facade of purism and elitism is deplorable and as demonstrated in Bitter Feast, really pisses people off.

Bitter Feast's roots also give it a commendation of expression: a reaction to reactions. It's an abstract theme to divulge with violence, especially in the guise of a brutal thriller. Escaping away from the confines of predictably (at least until the climax), Bitter Feast approaches the genre with a fine platter of culinary torture games. For instance, Gordon swears by a credo of which states that if Mr. Franks believes his taste buds to be so divine, could he not discern which dish had a scent of belladonna hidden amidst the prepared mulberries? Several cuisine-themed challenges await this man, JT Franks, a person of which has no humanity left to be sympathetic towards. Through the flashbacks and stoic vocalizing is Peter Gray's character slowly unearthed. While shallow but supported, Gray represents a character whose hardships and accidents make up what he is. His primitive side meshes with the luxuriant in which a medium is discovered. This is presented as scenes are interwoven to reveal the serene fortitude in such tasks as collecting berries, then rivaled with hunting, the true masculinity flourishing through his past brother's cruelty.

Without the introduction of a private detective, I feel Bitter Feast would have been more linear to the rehabilitation of Franks in his pretentiousness. While Bitter Feast revels in what is certainly a creative wig to put atop the head of generic horror, it never truly rockets towards the marginal yet loyal cult sinema success it could have acquired had it focused on more unconventional shocks and games. However, this culinary thriller was vastly entertaining and never boring. I even found myself patiently waiting for this Peter character to turn wind towards the path of German hero Armin Meiwes. Although hampered by the typical conventions, Bitter Feast is quite the low-budget spectacle of fine dishes and exacted justice towards a pointless opinion.  Well-played and conservatively sadistic, Bitter Feast is exactly what the title implies.


1 comment:

A.D. said...

Glad to see that your review is a positive one! Been very curious about this film ever since hearing about it, so I'll definitely be seeking it out now.