Dir: Michael Hoffman. Ger-Switz. 2005. 98mins.
Voted the audience award winner at Rotterdam, MichaelHoffman's Eden is a natural crowdpleaser that successfully combines food and sex for aromantic romp in the best tradition of hits like Mostly Martha.
More demure and lessenergetic than Sandra Nettlebeck's feature, thiscomedy about the encounter between an overweight, gifted chef and a perkymarried waitress may not overwhelm critics but has nothing to fear frommainstream audiences who were drawn to the likes of A Taste Of Spice or Eat,Drink, Man, Woman.
Gregor (a superb performance from Josef Ostendorf),whose viewpoint governs most of the story, is a shy, solitary, eccentricgenius. His cookbook, Cuccina Erotica, is a runaway success- almost as much as his restaurant, where his selected gourmet clientele doteson his Euros 300 meals and his refined selection of wines.
A passionate cook from earlychildhood, Gregor lovingly fondles the carefullychosen condiments of his meals, tickling, flattering, caressing and shapingthem into savant combinations that leave his admirers speechless and sighingfor more.
Large, portly, rosy andeasily out-of-breath, his only relaxation is watching young waitresses at workin the restaurants of the Bavarian spa where he lives: a purely platonicoccupation, since he had been advised by doctors to refrain from such strenuousoccupations as sex.
One day, he rescues a littlegirl from a garden fountain and gains the gratitude of her mother, Eden(Roche), a waitress relaxing in the park. Next day he prepares a chocolate cakefor the girl's fifth birthday, sending her into paroxysms of delight; after shetakes a bite out of curiosity, Eden is hooked as well.
Unable to resist thetemptation, she is irresistibly drawn into Gregor'skitchen, to be served a myriad of dishes that look as delicious as theyobviously taste. From then on they meet once a week, he to cook and she to eat,trying to pretend there is nothing more between them than friendship and mutualappreciation. But then Eden's blundering husband, Xaver(Striesow) spoils a perfectly innocent relationshipwhich, by this stage, has no alternative but to follow the path of all romanticcomedies.
Hoffman's story-tellingapproach is too conventional for comfort, with a narrative that resorts tofairly flat secondary characters to sort out its myriad subplots.
He also tries too much toelicit sympathy for the exemplary Eden by making her the mother of a daughterwith Down's Syndrome.
But the film is helpedimmensely by the presence of Josef Ostendorf, whose every move and expression are carefully drawn andmoulded with evident relish.
Colourful Bavarianlocations, crisply shot by Jutta Pohlmann, and Jorg Prinz's effective productiondesign provide the bright, cheerful kind of wrapping recommended for this kindof dish.