Food has long been employed as an evocative tool for storytelling in cinema, affirmed by the copious films in which food’s role becomes as critical as the plot’s leading characters. From the very earliest moving image works, food established itself as a protagonist, as, for example, in the Lumière brothers’ Le Repas de Bébé, 1895, in which family life is illustrated with a child being fed by his parents. Diverse dishes in films are used to construct a narrative thread, to create metaphors and dialogue, but above all, as a tool to uncover the characters and reveal their distinctive personality traits.
New York-based film critic and journalist Kristen Yoonsoo Kim, behind @meals.on.reels, the absorbing Instagram account archiving representations of food from cult cinema, begun her project in September 2017. “Culinary adjectives are often the best for describing films: bitter, sweet, bittersweet, delicious—no, delectable—scrumptious, an eye-candy of a movie with performances that practically sizzle on the screen. It’s no wonder the two go together like prosciutto and melon. In film, meals have become iconic symbols of camaraderie, societal status, tension, budding romance, and many a sexual innuendo,” Kim explains.
Food is inexorably linked to our social development, as from childhood, in fact birth, it is one of the core mediators in relationships, defining dynamics of care, power and responsibility from an early age, as well as, of course, pleasure and disgust. And cinema, which largely endeavours to represent relationships between human beings, could not then disregard the act of eating. With a particular interest in obscure cinema, the images Kim collates on @meals.on.reels are mainly sourced from cult movies and independent films spanning a breadth of time periods and genres.
Scouring Tumblr and video libraries, Kims’ finds include the likes of a surreally decorated pig’s head from Swedish director Ernst Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander; a knife impaled into a Valentine’s Day cake in eerie Australian mystery flick Picnic at Hanging Rock; a painterly banana peel appearing in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s comic episode ‘The Earth Seen from the Moon’; the lavish Taiwanese spread in Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet; and an exasperated Romy Schneider enveloped in bed sheets while a tempting breakfast tray sits in the foreground, taken from Jacques Deray’s seminal work La Piscine.
Feature image: Fanny and Alexander, 1982. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. (via @meals.on.reels)