Menus-Plaisirs - Les Troisgros 2023

Directed by Frederick Wiseman Visions

A quietly diligent examination of a family-run three-star Michelin restaurant in France, revealing minute details of a sprawling ecosystem as it unobtrusively traverses kitchens, dining rooms, suppliers, markets, cheese caves, farms, vineyards, and apiaries.

Aug 11

Hollywood Avondale

France In French with English subtitles
240 minutes Colour / DCP
E

Director, Editor

Producers

Frederick Wiseman, Karen Konicek, Olivier Giel

Cinematography

James Bishop

Sound

Jean-Paul Mugel

With

Michel Troisgros, Cesar Troisgros, Léo Troisgros

Festivals

Venice, Toronto, New York, London, Tokyo 2023; CPH:DOX, Sydney 2024

Elsewhere

Presented in association with

Canvas

In Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros, its 93-year-old director, Frederick Wiseman, is attuned to small pleasures (menus-plaisirs). Spending countless hours at Le Bois san Feuilles, a three-star Michelin restaurant which has been in the Troisgros family for decades, Wiseman is less interested in the product and more enamoured by the process – a holistic approach that methodically connects the dots between a myriad of family, staff and suppliers and lays bare the inner workings of its core characters. 

This four-hour documentary invites you into its world like a member of the family – dropping you in to observe the bloodless bickering between chefs during a menu-planning session, only revealing they are father and son much later on. Eschewing typical documentary crutches like piece-to-camera interviews or scene-setting narration, you must instead relax into its rhythm, figuring out the restaurant’s complex hierarchies, dynamics and familial tensions by observing the day-to-day. Mundanity is punched up by a low hum of beauty, courtesy of the Loire Valley countryside sun illuminating its well-heeled guests enjoying long lunches and swathes of lush produce looked after with satisfying discipline by a huge team of white-hat-wearing chefs. 

The camera is obviously in reverence of culinary artistry and the very specific balance of creativity and order that is needed in a pursuit of gastronomic greatness. It stays static, lingering, as its practitioners chop, blanche, pipe, weigh and plate to an exacting precision. Sojourns into the kitchens are interspersed with meetings with the accountant, visits to sustainable meat suppliers, tours to cheese farms, and conversations between chef (namely Michel, the Troisgros patriarch) and regular diners. Nothing is explained. Gradually, viewers piece together the puzzle themselves, and during its course, build an innate understanding of how much it takes – and how many people it takes – just to get a plate of thoughtfully tweezered food on the table. — Jean Teng