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Studio: IFC Films
Year: 2009
Cast: Adam Bousdoukos, Moritz Bleibtreu, Birol Ünel, Pheline Roggan, Anna Bederke, Dorka Gryllus, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Lucas Gregorowicz, Demir Gokgol, Cem Akin, Marc Hosemann, Catrin Striebeck, Ugur Yucel, Udo Kier, Monica Bleibreu
Director: Fatih Akin
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes, language)
Run Time: 01h:39m:54s
Genre(s): foreign

“The traveler…hasn’t reached his destination yet.” - Shayn Weiss (Birol Ünel)


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Fatih Akin has yet to stumble as a director, and I'd be shocked if this was his first misfire. A powerful cast and compelling story should make this another unforgettable gem.

Movie Grade: B

DVD Grade: B+

Turkish filmmaker Faith Akin burst on the international cinema scene with the powerful, 2004 drama, Head-On. He followed that up with 2007’s The Edge of Heaven which received even more acclaim than its predecessor. After helming a segment in the 2009 anthology, New York, I Love You, Akin released his next feature, Soul Kitchen. Also widely heralded by critics, Akin used an all-star international cast to make his first foray into dark comedy. While it isn’t as compelling as his previous works and threatens to completely fall off the rails, this is still further proof that Faith Akin has only just begun as a filmmaker and his best work is yet to come. IFC’s DVD is a solid effort, with a great video presentation and surprisingly spry audio mix, along with a couple of nice extras along for the ride.

Zinos Kazantsakis (Adam Bousdoukos) is a Greek immigrant living in Germany, who also happens to own a restaurant named “Soul Kitchen.” It’s a strange place to say the least, located in an old warehouse that’s virtually inaccessible to anyone but the locals, but it continues to stay open thanks to a collection of regulars and its unique atmosphere. Zinos’ life is slowing going in the wrong direction though, as his girlfriend, Nadine (Pheline Roggan) is going to China for work, and his brother, Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu) drops in, looking for part time work as part of a prison-release program. He’s also in incredible pain due to a slipped disc in his back, and his newly-hired chef, Shayn (Birol Ünel), is good at what he does, but is too much of a wild man for Zinos to keep in check. Believe it or not, things get even worse, as an old schoolmate named Thomas Neumann (Wotan Wilke Möhring) will stop at nothing to buy “Soul Kitchen” so he can sell it to a rich land developer (Udo Kier), and essentially take away everything that Zinos lives for.

Soul Kitchen is an interesting change of direction for Faith Akin. With the first half of the film at least slightly resembling some of the filmmaker’s earlier works, the disappointing second half finds Akin straying a little too far from his comfort zone for my blood. There’s a lot to like right off the bat, beginning with the fantastic cast, headlined by co-writer Bousdoukos, who makes Zinos as likeable and sympathetic as possible in a surprisingly more demanding role than it sounds like on paper. The always-excellent Bleibtreu (Das Experiment, Munich) making the brotherly aspect of his relationship with Zinos believable and oozing his usual charm during every scene he’s in. We don’t see enough of Ünel (Head-On), but when he is on screen he steals every minute. The rest of the ensemble is quite good (other than the slightly annoying Roggan), and can never be even slightly held accountable for any of the film’s shortcomings.

The few problems lie in the comedic elements, especially near the end of the film, which teeter a little too close to the edge of pure slapstick for the film’s good. While it never gets too ridiculous, certain events almost compromise the excellent character development that’s occurred up to this point. Fortunately, director Faith Akin keeps things just sturdy enough for the story to remain engaging despite these missteps. This is far from his best film, but it just might be the one, to date, that is his most accessible, and, more importantly, worthy of numerous repeat viewings. It’s also, easily, Akin’s most fun, light-hearted effort, but, then again, his previous films were about as dramatic and visceral as they come. I have a feeling that, when his filmography is complete, Soul Kitchen will be seen as a pivotal turning point in the career of an amazing filmmaker.

The DVD contains a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen video presentation that features strong, detailed images throughout. A bright, vivid color scheme is always in play, with no glaring flaws or blemishes to drag the transfer down in the slightest. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is one of the better lossy tracks I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s best moments occur when the film’s excellent soundtrack is blaring throughout the sound field with great songs adding a little something extra to the proceedings. Dialogue is always crystal clear and well-integrated into the overall mix. The only extras are the trailer for Soul Kitchen and a very nice, 35-minute making of piece that gives us a surprisingly great deal of insight into the making of the film.

Posted by: Chuck Aliaga - August 18, 2012, 7:23 pm - DVD Review
Keywords: gourmet chef, restaurant, hilarious, heartfelt

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