Tasteful in more ways than one, mischievous and charming docu “How to Cook Your Life” serves up a heapin’ helping of Zen priest, cook and bestselling food author Edward Espe Brown, steeped through the happy, healthy worldview of Teuton director Doris Doerrie (“Enlightenment Guaranteed,” “Naked”). Nutritious item will feast on fest menus and pass cleanly through the exhibition system, leaving little room for dessert.
Snapped up at Berlin fest by U.S. distribbery Roadside Attractions, pic fits snugly with subject matter and worldview portrayed in two of shingle’s more high-profile recent releases, cautionary fast-food docu “Super Size Me” and hybrid metaphysical breakout “What the Bleep Do We Know!?”
A serene culinary raconteur in a “Born Again Buddhist” T-shirt who isn’t above cursing out an uncooperative bottle of oil, Brown punctuates such bits of Zen wisdom as “rest in the immediate as though it was infinity” with high-pitched chuckles and self-deprecating asides.
Doerrie catches him in culinary action, surrounded by clearly adoring disciples, at Austria’s Scheibbs Buddhist Center and, in California, the San Francisco Zen Center and Tassajara Mountain Center. This last venue is where the younger Brown began cooking as a self-described “arrogant, bossy, short-tempered know-it-all,” and from where he first conceived and wrote his landmark “Tassajara Bread Book.”
He eventually united his love of cooking with the teachings of Zen priest and mentor Suzuki Roshi, whose early advice was “when you wash the rice, wash the rice, when you cut the carrots, cut the carrots, when you stir the soup, stir the soup.”
Profile of Brown is peppered with pungent side trips, including the profile of an apparently homeless woman who claims to be the sole proprietor of a biz called Back Door Catering. Translated, she lives exclusively off of dumpster diving, and, at one point, coaxes Doerrie’s soundman to use his boom to snag a high branch full of figs.
Sum total of parts is an appealing, non-strident plea for a return to not only organic cooking, but, by extension, taking care of oneself and others. Auds won’t need fries with this.
Craft package is bright and crisp. Doerrie’s fondness for clever visuals manifests itself in title card featuring pic’s moniker carved in radishes. Warm jazz score deserves a CD of it’s own. Helmer is heard questioning Brown a couple of times, and may also be glimpsed briefly, distributing food in a church. Roadside Attractions plans a late 2007 Stateside release.