See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Wednesday, August 13, 1997

A Chef In Love

Posted By on Wed, Aug 13, 1997 at 12:00 AM

Georgian director Nana Djordjadze, working from a screenplay by her husband Irakli Kvirikadze, has fashioned a lightweight and intermittently incoherent fairy tale centered around that rarely welcome cinematic apparition, the Happy Lifeforce (HL). The HL is a man, always a man, somewhere past middle age, who lives life with a manic gusto, eating, drinking and screwing in copious quantity and becoming only more robust as a result. Think of it as the Anthony Quinn syndrome.

The HL in Chef is the title character, Pascal Ichac (Pierre Richard), a wandering French ex-gigolo and super gourmand traveling in pre-Soviet Georgia. One day he shares a train compartment with a princess, Cecilia Abachidze (Nino Kirtadze), an attractive young woman who, though barely a third of Pascal's age, knows a genuine HL when she sees one and so becomes his mistress. The rest of the movie follows them through various adventures, which begin in a picaresque low-comedy vein, become absurdly cartoonish once the Bolshevik revolution reaches Georgia, and then wind down into a labored sentimentality meant, one suspects, to send the viewer home in a wistful mood.

Richard, best known in the United States for his comic turn The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe (1972), and who originated the Robin Williams role in the French version of Father's Day, has gone gray and grown rotund. While his character is hardly cuddly -- true HLs are too self-absorbed to be entirely likable -- he brings a certain fussy charisma to his portrayal of the bearded epicurean. The rest of the characters are stick figures who glower with menace or glow with sensuality, whichever's required. Although the historic setting is specific, the details have a certain bedtime-story quality -- this is the sort of post-communist fable where vulgar, pillaging thugs overthrow courtly, kindly dictatorships.

The movie has a superfluous framing device involving a descendant of Pascal's who has the princess' diary of their affair. Director Djordjadze's uncertain handling of this episodic tale's various moods creates so dubious a tone that by the time the diary offers up its final revelation, what's meant to be fuzzy and warm is only blurry and tepid.

Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for the Metro Times. E-mail him at


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

More by Richard C. Walls

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit