Eugene Weekly : Movies : 10.14.10


Belly Up

If it accomplished nothing else, Fatih Akin’s Soul Kitchen would prove that its director has a versatile talent. Akin’s last feature film was the complex, affecting, international character drama The Edge of Heaven, which didn’t play Eugene (but landed on both my and Jason’s Blair’s lists of the top ten films of 2008). Soul Kitchen is a bit of an about face for the writer-director; it’s the farcical story of a put-upon restaurateur, Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos), and the unlikely dive he transforms into a hot spot. An absurd combination of circumstances conspires to find Zinos a temperamental new chef, a stalking real estate goon, a tax inspector, a back injury and a distant girlfriend, not to mention a jailbird brother, Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu), who wants a pretend job at the Soul Kitchen. Every piece of the ridiculous puzzle is carefully lined up, and if the eventual plunge to the depths of despair is both a little too broad and a little too quickly rebounded from, it’s hard to hold it against the film. Soul Kitchen trucks along cheerily, buoyed by crisp shots of delectable food and the transformation of the Soul Kitchen from an ordinary dive to an empty shell to a bustling room overflowing with dancers, musicians and, in one case, a whole crowd that’s partaken in a little too much of an aphrodisiac. Over the course of the film, Akin packs in enough ups and downs to fuel an entire American sitcom season, and Bousdoukos, a soft-faced fellow with a perpetually dropped jaw, gamely plows through, frequently sprawled on benches (to help his back) and occasionally dancing awkwardly on his own restaurant’s floor. Soul Kitchen has a sweet spot for the Greek brothers at its center, and it’s never in question that things are going to work out for them — to a point. But the loose, confident style in which Akin tells their story feels both artful and effortless, ridiculous and
tender, and apart from a couple of moments where things just go that one step too far, it all hangs together — rather like Zinos’ ramshackle restaurant. Soul Kitchen () opens Friday, Oct. 15, at the Bijou. — Molly Templeton