Review: ‘The Recipe’

'The Recipe'

Mixes romance, crime story, black comedy, modern fairy tale and food to near-perfection.

Mixing romance, crime story, black comedy, missing-persons drama, modern fairy tale and food to near-perfection, “The Recipe” is a marvelous movie degustation. Centered on a TV producer searching for a sensational recipe and its elusive creator, helmer Anna Lee’s triumphant return to filmmaking (after a 12-year hiatus following her debut, “Rub Love”) is a beautifully packaged treat with broad aud appeal. Fests should make a reservation for this crowd-pleaser, and offshore niches are possible. Domestic biz ought to be tasty when pic bows Oct. 21.

First course is investigative journalism. Television documaker Choi Yu-jin (Ryu Seung-ryong) discovers that the impassioned dying wish of executed mass murderer Kim Jong-gu (Ryu Seung-mok) was for a bowl of doenjang jjigae (spicy bean-curd stew). Flashbacks reveal Kim was so entranced by the stew at a tiny restaurant in the middle of a forest, he surrendered without a fight when cops arrived.

Splitting into parallel strands, the script by Lee and Jang Jin sends Choi on a labyrinthine search for the recipe and another equally complicated quest to track down its creator, Jang Hye-jin (Lee Yo-weon), a mysterious young woman who worked briefly at the restaurant but has since disappeared.

Turning detective, Choi learns something of Hye-jin’s past as a country girl who spent years perfecting her doenjang jjigae and fell in love with Kim Hyeon-su (Lee Dong-wook), a Korean-Japanese winemaker whose overseas relatives demanded that he return home for an arranged marriage. Then there’s the shadowy figure of Chairman Park (Cho Seong-ha); a millionaire whose lost sense of smell was restored by Hye-jin’s stew, Park was the last person seen alive with the girl.

Choi’s magnificent obsession over the precise ingredients and preparation method of Hye-jin’s dish is the movie’s heart and soul. Through his encounters with soybean growers and salt merchants, and recipe-related consultations with chemical scientist Ryoo (Cho Mun-oi), the screenplay shows how basic fare such as bean-curd stew can be embraced by people from all walks of life as a symbol of national pride and identity.

Narrative appears to lose a little of its magic when a major mystery surrounding Hye-jin and Hyeon-su is revealed. But in keeping with the movie’s proven ability to surprise and delight, the story zooms into a whole new set of enriching detours and backstories-within-backstories, which evoke the spirit of foreign – lingo foodie favorites such as “Tampopo” and “Like Water for Chocolate.”

Ryu Seung-ryong is just right as the newsman who starts his mission as a professional eyeing a scoop and ends up deeply affected by the amazing tale he uncovers. Wispy Lee Yo-weon and hunky Lee Dong-wook are nicely matched as the lovers.

Han Jae-gweon’s fabulous percussion- and double bass-driven score, and Na Heui-jeok’s glorious widescreen images of farming fields and rolling hills outside Seoul are standout attractions of a pristine tech package.

The Recipe

South Korea

Production

A CJ Entertainment release and presentation of a Film Itsuda production in association with GV Entertainment, Soran. (International sales: CJ Entertainment, Seoul.) Produced by Jang Jin. Executive producer, Kim Jeong-ah. Directed by Anna Lee. Screenplay, Lee, Jang Jin.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Na Heui-jeok; editors, Kim Sang-beom, Kim Jae-beom; music, Han Jae-gweon; art director, Jang Seok-jin; costume designer, Kim Heui-ju; sound (Dolby Digital), Jeong In-ho; visual effects; Park Eui-dong, assistant director, Lee Jae-pyeong. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (Gala Presentation), Oct. 13, 2010. Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Ryu Seung-ryong, Lee Yo-weon, Lee Dong-wook, Jo Seong-ha, Ryu Seung-mok, Cho Seong-ha, Cho Mun-oi.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety

Loading