Soul Kitchen

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Soul Kitchen



So much of moviemaking comes out of deliberateness: the rigorously plotted screenplay, the expensive highway explosion, etc. Thus, when a film takes on the improvisatory spirit of whatever as its game plan, it's impossible not to admire it. Soul Kitchen isn't the best effort by Germany's Fatih Akin; that would be his postpunk romance Head-On (2004), which felt Fassbinder-worthy. But his new movie, an occasionally shouty comedy, is easily his most fun: It's about the relaunching of a restaurant---more of a bohemian hangout---along with all the madness that goes into such endeavors. The lofty dining-cum-performance space (which lends us the title) welcomes a knife-flinging diva of a head chef, a wanna-be rocker, a rapacious property developer and even a tax collector, all of whom yield to its high-volume vibe. Bumping well after midnight, the joint becomes an emblem for the liberated film itself.

Akin, who uses throbbing dance music as effectively as Danny Boyle, has a softness for Hamburg's cultural outsiders; he was born to Turkish immigrants and his movies flaunt a post-reunification embrace. The humorously mystified owner of the establishment, thick-maned Zinos (Bousdoukos, also a cowriter), is a Greek-born entrepreneur. (He plays a lot like John Cusack's vinyl-store proprietor in High Fidelity.) After his Skype relationship with a Shanghai-based girlfriend gets difficult, he throws himself into the rehabilitation of his criminal brother, Illias (Bleibtreu), who needs a job to justify his prison day-leaves. Their bond is the heart of the film---even as Zinos is reduced to a bent-over wreck (he throws out his back early on), you feel the character is somehow growing in stature. Give this a shot.
---Joshua Rothkopf

See also Make it funky: Fatih Akin

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