Soul Kitchen (2009)

This is one of Akin’s most rollickingly pleasurable films, a high-energy comedy filled with absurd moments about an F&B manager who is faced with making hard business and romantic decisions. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,565

Dir. Fatih Akin
2009 | Germany | Comedy/Drama | 96 min | 1.85:1 | German & various languages
M18 (passed clean) for sexual scenes

Cast: Adam Bousdoukos, Birol Unel, Moritz Bleibtreu
Plot: Owner of a locals-only diner in Hamburg, Zinos is down on his luck. His girlfriend has moved to Shanghai, customers are boycotting the kitchen’s new gourmet menu, and he’s now got back issues. 
Awards: Won Special Jury Prize & Young Cinema Award & Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
International Sales: The Match Factory

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – F&B Business; Food & Romance
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

After making what could be his two finest films, Head-On (2004) and The Edge of Heaven (2007), German-Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin decided to eschew serious filmmaking for an unexpectedly fun romp in Soul Kitchen

As the title suggests, there’s food involved as Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos in a live-wire performance), the F&B manager of the eponymous casual dining restaurant, finds himself in a dilemma when his girlfriend moves to China for work. 

Unsure whether to close down his business and follow her, Zinos is faced with more problems when his incarcerated brother on partial parole drops by. 

“They don’t have a taste. They have a hole in the stomach. And they fill this hole with shit.”

Soul Kitchen is a high-energy comedy, filled with so many absurd moments yet Akin is able to create a world where absurdity is plausible as his oddball characters stretch the narrative in different ways—from business deals gone wrong to Zinos suffering from a serious back problem (which is a recurring motif milked for comic relief) to chaos in the kitchen. 

In arguably Akin’s most rollickingly pleasurable picture, there is hardly a good time to take a breather as the generally fast-paced dialogue and penchant for quick cuts create dramatic intensity. 

It’s sometimes too easy for a comedy to fall into the trap of being just funny (or worst, unfunny) and nothing else, but in Soul Kitchen, Akin manages to find just enough pathos to make it work.  We don’t necessarily care too much about Zinos and friends, but you can’t say that they are uninteresting people to hang out with.

Grade: B+



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