FILM OF THE WEEK: El Bulli
by Vadim Rizov
Despite its title, El Bulli: Cooking In Progress isn't so much a food documentary as a depiction of a refined industrial process. For foodie types, Ferran Adrià's three-Michelin-stars establishment is one of the most important homes of molecular gastronomy (or, as he defines it when imagining nervous diners' reactions, all that stuff using liquid nitrogen). For Adrià, semi-industrial hardware and unnatural-sounding additives are as essential as olive oil and fresh produce, tools rather than novelties. The food that comes out is not just highly visual—crackable, frail desserts, unusual foams, unnatural bulbous curves—but meant to taste like nothing you've experienced, with familiar ingredients prodded into new forms. Some people think it's pretentious gimmickry, but Adrià swears his only goal is to surprise and delight. The theatrical release of Gereon Wetzel's stone-faced portrait of the titular Spanish restaurant's 2008-09 year is timed to coincide with the establishment closing its doors on Friday before converting into a culinary think-tank that launches in 2014—by which point the pesky diners will presumably be eliminated, leaving the creators to tinker in peace. In solidarity with its driven subjects, El Bulli sports precisely zero shots of customers to instead emphasize the cooks and wait staff. Coming up with an all-new, 30-plus-course tasting menu every year is no simple feat, so for six months Ferran Adrià and his core crew retreat from their Catalonian location to a lab in Barcelona. The film devotes equal time to experimentation and opening night, but it has no interest in life outside the kitchen.