Foodies will savor every mouthwatering second of living legend Frederick Wiseman’s latest “reality fiction” production, the four-hour “Menus-Plaisirs—Les Troisgros.” The epicurean epic peers into the farm-to-table experience at a Michelin three-star French restaurant as well as at two other restaurants the Troisgros family operates.
Watching it is akin to having the best seat in the house for a perfectly created five-course meal that runs long into the night.
The documentary opens Friday at the Roxie in San Francisco. Do yourself a favor and eat before entering the theater.
Wiseman’s 44th feature is another of his languidly paced immersive journeys. It requires a viewer’s patience, since Wiseman, 93, prefers long scenes crafted around exchanges or discussions and are seen through to their natural conclusion. The approach might be off-putting to those in search of something less static and flashier. But in this time of overused sound bites and gotcha remarks — which then get taken out of context — it’s refreshing, even enlightening and meditative, to soak up what’s being said while watching what’s being done. Make no mistake, though, you’ll need to fully surrender to the long running time.
True to its farm-to-table theme, the film opens with a committed quest to suss out the best offerings at a farmer’s market and concludes with a sumptuous dinner at Troisgros in Ouches, France, and the conversations that ensue.
Wiseman’s watchful eye observes all the key ingredients that go into making Troisgros, as well as Le Central and Le Colline du Colombier restaurants, also located in central France, such foodie destinations. (Troisgros includes a hotel where many diners opt to stay.)
Wiseman, who filmed over the course of spring 2022, covers every minute aspect of what goes into creating this ultimate culinary experience.
It includes addressing diners’ dietary restrictions and dislikes, curating a wine and cheese selection (including a cheese cave you’ll salivate over), exacting taste-testing trials and the critical adjustments made afterward, sustainability efforts by the family and its vendors, and even the talks with on-floor staff about best practices and the imperative need to show mutual respect for each other.
As many who’ve been in the industry realize, numerous moveable parts get juggled behind the scenes. None of that, though, can be evident to guests.
The drama, if that’s what you could call it, comes in gentle form of father Michel transitioning the reins of the family biz (which started in 1930) to his son César, who is already placing his imprint in the Troisgros kitchen, on the menu and on the floor. Michel’s other son Léo is running Colline.
The Boston-born Wiseman has won four Emmys and has directed narrative features as well. In 2016, he received an honorary Oscar.
“Menus-Plaisirs—Les Troisgros” serves as an example of the magic that happens not only in the kitchen of a three-star Michelin restaurant but when a filmmaker pairs perfectly with a topic or subject at hand.
For $15 general admission tickets, visit roxie.com/.