That first "F" in SIFF stands for film, not food, but there's plenty of onscreen eating at the festival to entertain the culinary-minded moviegoer. As a supplement to Seattle Weekly's coverage of the Seattle International Film Festival, Voracious will again this year highlight the program's films of particular interest to those viewers who spend more time in dining rooms than screening rooms. Michel Bras in 2009 decided to gradually retire from his legendary restaurant in southern France, a decision that might doom many eponymous Michelin three-star restaurants. But Bras planned to bequeath the restaurant to his son, Sebastien, just as his mother had given the restaurant to him. The turnover marks a happy new start for the kitchen, as Step Up to the Plate's many scenes of Sebastien contemplating sunrises make clear.
"I think Sebastien will be at his best when Michel actually retires," a longtime friend says in this French documentary from Paul Lacoste chronicling the year leading up to Sebastien's assumption of the head chef's toque.
Sebastien sometimes struggles to match his father's innate artistry - "I don't understand you," he says when Bras outlines a seed oil concoction - and headstrong attitude, but he harbors none of the unspoken resentment that pollutes the father-son relationships in Jiro Dream of Sushi, another recent documentary about a great chef nearing the end of his career.
When Sebastien watches Michel tutor his own young son in basic kitchen skills, there's no sign that he feels supplanted in his patriarchal role; he seems genuinely pleased to witness the handing down of culinary knowledge. Sebastien is awed by Michel's handiwork, gorgeously illustrated by an opening scene in which Michel assembles a signature plate from a botanical garden's worth of flowers and herbs. By film's end, Sebastien is also depicted wowing guests.
The film is a sweet, leisurely-paced tribute to family. Answering a typically Gallic question from an unseen French reporter, Sebastien says, "As I was saying, it's not a revolution."