El Bulli: Cooking in Progress
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El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

Gereon Wetzel (Germany, World Showcase)

Friday, April 29, 8:45 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (350 King Street West)
Saturday, April 30, 1 p.m.
Cumberland 2 (159 Cumberland Street)
Sunday, May 8, 3 p.m.
Cumberland 3 (159 Cumberland Street)

El Bulli is a famous, insanely expensive restaurant in the coastal Catalan region of Spain. This is information we gleaned from Wikipedia, not from watching the film El Bulli: Cooking in Progress: that’s because the documentary does minimal framing work and no interviewing, preferring both an en media res and a fly-on-the-wall sort of approach.
All we know is that El Bulli closes for six months of the year in order to to drum up molecular-gastronomical creations for its next menu, and in this doc, the audience is following that process from test kitchen to opening night. The creations El Bulli has perfected the making of involve juicing, dejuicing, liquid-nitrogen-freezing, vacuumizing, and all sorts of other invasive-sounding things you can do to a vegetable, animal, or mineral. Vacuuming is very big. Note to self: must buy a vacuumizer.
If you’re going to El Bulli: Cooking in Progress to catch a food porn flick, then you might want to reconsider. The documentary is less a celebration of food and more a cautionary tale about what happens when foodies go too far: the colours are dim, the chefs severe, and the process seemingly soulless. Watching the El Bulli team find seven different ways to abuse a sweet potato into something unrecognizable will either be really thrilling or will make you feel like you’re witnessing something very masturbatory and also very expensive. Given that the filmmakers take such a hands-off approach, this documentary can only really be as enjoyable as its subject matter. As a result, El Bulli: Cooking in Progress serves up something that has its novel moments, but is ultimately sort of sad.