Eric Khoo helmed “Food Lore” aims to explore a number of social issues throughout Asia, by connecting them with the local cuisines. Dang Di Phan handles the Vietnamese episode, in the most aesthetically poised entry in the series.
Food Lore is available on HBO Asia and HBO
Thang is a young chef working in a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh. One night, he meets Van, a gorgeous stewardess some years older than him, and is immediately smitten. He proceeds on courting her by offering his best dishes and she responds almost immediately, with the two becoming a couple soon after. The imbalance between them, however, is visible from the beginning, as Thang is head over heels for her but she seems to have other plans about how to continue her life. The clash is inevitable, but Van continues to offer her food, while experimenting with flavors that could even be deadly. The title refers to the fact that she does not like meat particularly, if at all.
Dang Di Phan directs a film that focuses on the difficulties relationships pose, particularly when age difference becomes a factor, and the connection between food, sex, and love. One of the first things one will notice is that the feline element is quite intense, not only for the many cats Van keeps in her small apartment, but also because both actors, Lanh Thanh as Thang and Ngoc Anh as Van, also look like cats in a way, with the latter also moving and occasionally conducting herself like one, including within her relationship with him. However, as we watch this rather unequal relationship of two characters that share very few common traits unfolding, it is soon revealed that the focus is not on context but on the visuals and the overall style. It is in that regard that the episode truly thrives, since Dang Di Phan seems to have taken care of every little detail.
In that fashion, Pham Quang Minh’s stylized cinematography applies to all aspects of the film. From the framing of the two characters including the sex scenes, to the scenes in the boat, to the glass on Van’s floor that allows the people who live in the apartment to look at the street below and vice versa, and finally, to the food, everything seems to highlight the artistry of the visuals
Lastly, the movie also focuses on some rather unusual and extreme dishes, such as the poisonous fugu, with this part giving a surrealistic and a bit delirious essence to the film, adding to the entertainment it offers. Julie Beziau’s editing allows the episode to unfold in a somewhat “lazy” but not particularly slow pace, which suits the overall aesthetics perfectly.
“He Serves Fish, She Eats Flowers” is a true eye-candy and a film that everyone will enjoy watching.