UMC - Grandes Marques et Maisons de Champagne

Champagne, star of the seventh art

Champagne and films for foodies

No sooner was it invented than cinema turned its attention to food – truffles being cooked in Champagne for instance in Charlie Chaplin’s A Woman of Paris (1923).

Cue a string of movies with tell-tale names set in restaurant kitchens and dining rooms: Gilles Grangier’s La Cuisine au Beurre starring Bourvil and Fernandel (1963, Cooking with Butter); Jacques Besnard’s Le Grand Restaurant starring Louis de Funès (1966, The Big Restaurant); and Claude Zidi’s L’Aile ou la Cuisse starring Louis de Funès and Coluche (1976, The Wing or the Thigh). Then of course there was Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe (1973, The Big Feast) where food becomes a vehicle for excess, not pleasure – even if voracious eater Philippe Noiret does wash it down with Perrier-Jouet Champagne.

The eighties then saw the emergence of “culinary” cinema, with three films in particular topping the bill of fare. First came Ted Kotecheff’s Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe (1978): a foodie thriller with the focus on chefs, kitchens and bubbly – Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Taittinger Comte de Champagne, Roederer Cristal and Veuve Clicquot to give but a few examples. … Next came Juzo Itami’s Tampopo (1985): a spaghetti-western inspired Japanese film about the search for the perfect ramen (noodle soup). The film opens with a sequence almost straight out of French New Wave cinema: a gangster-type who takes his seat in a movie theatre and addresses us through the screen while being served foodie delights washed down with Veuve Clicquot. More Veuve Clicquot in our third film, Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast (1988), in this case an 1860 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin served with Blinis Demidoff and caviar. The setting is Denmark, not Japan, but the emphasis remains firmly on life’s sensual pleasures.

And let’s not forget all those food-focused films that have come out of France, your gourmet playground par excellence. Claude Chabrol’s Le Boucher for instance (1970, The Butcher) opens with a Moët & Chandon wedding breakfast. More huge meals in his 1985 film Poulet au Vinaigre, (Coq au Vin) this time washed down with a 1976 Piper Heidsieck vintage, touted by its maker with the slogan “Que mijote Claude Chabrol?” (What’s Claude Chabrol cooking up this time?). Still on the theme of food, Edouard Molinaro’s Le Souper (1992, The Supper) imagines a secret conversation held over dinner between French ministers Talleyrand (Claude Rich) and Fouché (Claude Brasseur) in the wake of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. As they chew over ways of forming a government that would be good for France while keeping them in power, Talleyrand’s chef Carème feeds them delicacies served with Champagne – all paid for by the English.

Champagne is also, of course, the wine of choice for grand celebrations, as in Peter Greenaway’s The Belly of an Architect (1987) and Sofia Coppola’s, Marie-Antoinette (2006) with its famous fountains of Champagne …

Which brings us nicely to our last entry: Thomas Vinterberg’s Druk (Binge Drinking) which won the Oscar for Best International Film in 2021. The film opens with a gourmet dinner laced with enough Champagne to conjure up images of the vineyards themselves …