Dir: Ventura Pons. Sp-Ger. 2002. 112mins.
An absorbing tale of obsessive love, featuring nice visual exploitation by Catalan director Ventura Pons of his native Barcelona, make Food Of Love enjoyable to watch. Some audiences may be put off by Pons' theatrical style, and occasionally find some of the dialogue and settings unnatural or affected. But in that sense Food is classic Pons, made by a director who got his start in theatre and who regularly finds cinematic inspiration in plays and novels (the film is an adaptation of David Leavitt's novel The Page Turner). A fixed presence on the festival circuit - Food is Pons' fifth consecutive title to screen in the Berlinale's Panorama sidebar - the film should succeed in finding a nook here as well. Shot in English, it could offer wider theatrical potential despite a mostly unknown British cast speaking in American accents. The homosexual material may also attract niche distributors.
By far Food's most engrossing element is the love triangle between aspiring pianist Paul (Bishop), jaded concert pianist Kennington (Rhys) and Kennington's agent and long-time lover Mansourian (Corduner). An opening concert scene builds a crescendo of anticipation as Paul, fresh from the clutches of his overbearing mother Pamela (Stevenson) on his first night turning musical pages for his idol Kennington, distracts both of the older men with his youthful good looks.
Flash to Barcelona, where Paul and Pamela are on vacation and Kennington is on tour. Paul tracks him down and the two begin a passionate affair. Pamela, undergoing her own metamorphosis from abandoned housewife to woman-of-the-world, confuses Kennington's presence as an interest in her. Guilty, Kennington rushes home to Mansourian. Back in New York, Paul, now a student at Juilliard and still infatuated with Kennington, has a brief affair with Mansourian. Pamela, meanwhile, must confront her son's homosexuality and growing independence.
Unfortunately the only exteriors shot with actors are in the photogenic Barcelona, which is lovingly filmed by cinematographer Mario Montero from a first-time tourist's perspective. Latter segments of the film are confined entirely to interiors, contributing to a staged feel, but Pons does a nice job regardless, capturing the lifestyle of gay New York high society.
Corduner is strong as the needy yet malevolent Mansourian, but Rhys' seductive and vulnerable Kennington is the stand-out performance. He and Bishop create good on-screen chemistry, leaving the audience wishing for more scenes between the two. Instead the character of Pamela is given central billing as the narrative thread which pulls the story together, with Stevenson making the character credible despite her tedious bouts with hysteria. One bizarre scene has a group of suburban mums in a group therapy session discussing the details of safe gay sex. It's disappointing that the final confrontation doesn't bring Kennington and Paul back together, but Pons ends on a sweet note with an ultimately satisfying mother-son reconciliation.
Prod cos: Els Films de la Rambla, 42nd Street Productions, FFP Media Entertainment
Spain dist: Lauren Films
Int'l sales: 42nd Street Productions
Exec prods: Thomas Spieker, Michael Smeaton
Scr: Pons, from David Leavitt's novel The Page Turner
Cinematography: Mario Montero
Prod des: Aintza Serra
Ed: Pere Abadal
Music: Carles Cases
Main cast: Juliet Stevenson, Paul Rhys, Allan Corduner, Kevin Bishop