Freeze Frame #147: Ratatouille

I am not yet so deluded as to call myself a critic of any standing. I write about the movies because I love them, and because I love to talk about them. And that includes talking about the stuff I love as much as the stuff I don’t. In some ways, this blog and you readers are among the things I treasure the most.

Which may be why, after watching an absolutely brilliant film which came out years ago but which I inexplicably missed, the scene that stayed with me was the one where Anton Ego delivers his verdict on the rat chef:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more.

Over the years, animated features have thrilled me, amazed me and made me laugh. But rarely have they moved me to tears. That little speech did.

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2 thoughts on “Freeze Frame #147: Ratatouille

  1. Ramsu, I don’t know why, but no one I know has liked that movie, and a few even cursed me for recommending it. But somehow, I found it so heart-warming in a non-soppy kind of way. And that scene you described was part of it. (plus, if I don’t have it wrong, remember that scene where the taste takes Anton back to his mother’s kitchen?)

    • That’s a beautiful scene — the one in Anton’s mom’s kitchen. And very true in some ways. A piece of work that reopens some forgotten page of memory and manages not to crap all over it always appeals to us. We might fault its technical merit, but we cannot deny our fondness for it.

      I feel criticism can never be completely objective — a good critic is simply one who is articulate about his admittedly subjective views. This scene was as good as any in expressing that.

      Having said that, I did feel a little let down by that last scene, where Anton is shown as an investor in the bistro and behaves simply like a delighted customer. Had our last image of Anton been of him writing the review, I think it would’ve been more powerful.

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