A Feast for the Eyes: Representations of Food in Cinema

This is part of our Campus Spotlight on Middlebury College.


Food and the actions that surround it (procuring, preparing, consuming, communal sharing) are essential for life and have always been used in art and literature to fulfill emotional, visual, intellectual, and narrative functions. We will focus on how food and eating acquire and provide cultural meanings through cinema. We will watch films where food plays a central role, read critical essays about cinema, and write several pieces analyzing relevant cinematic texts. Our goal is to understand how cinema constructs our understanding of something as concrete and indispensable as food. In this course students will write several pieces in different genres – plot summaries, film reviews, personal essays, close textual analysis and a final research paper. Additionally, they will participate in weekly discussions and debates generated by the screened films and will make oral presentations on the cultural and personal significance of food.


Learning Goals:

  • Practice different genres of academic and creative writing
  • Develop the skills necessary for analyzing cinematic texts
  • Practice oral presentations, public speaking and academic expression
  • Develop analytical and research skills – using library resources, citing bibliography, analyzing films in cultural contexts




Tuesday: syllabus, library orientation.

Screening: Babette’s Feast (Gabriel Axel, 1987)

Thursday: film discussion. sign up for presentations on food in cultural contexts. Discuss/practice plot summary. Read: Watching Food: the Production of Food, Film and Values (in Reel Food)



Tuesday: Presentations (3). Give out prompt for first assignment.

Screening: Big Night (Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci, 1996)

Thursday: film discussion.  Discuss/practice plot summary. Read: Chapter 4 from Reel Food

Saturday: watch Paradise in the Hirschfield Series.


WEEK  3 

Tuesday: first assignment due in class: Plot Summary Paradise (Andrey Konchalovsky, 2016) 2-3 pages.

Screening: Raise the Red Lantern (Yimou Zhang, 1991)

Thursday: film discussion. Read: Chapter 10 from Reel Food



Tuesday:  Presentations (3).

Screening: Like Water for Chocolate (Alfonso Arau, 1992)

Thursday: film discussion. Read: Chapter 5 from Reel Food



Tuesday:  Presentations (3). Give out prompt for second assignment.

Screening: In the Mood for Love (Kar Wai Wong, 2000)

Thursday: film discussion. Read: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140509-chewing-the-scenery ; http://www.indiewire.com/2009/12/decade-wong-kar-wai-on-in-the-mood-for-love-55668/ ; http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/in-the-mood-for-love-2001 ; http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C0DE6DD173DF933A0575AC0A9669C8B63

Saturday: watch The Salesman in the Hirschfield Series



Tuesday: second assignment due in class: film review The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi, 2017). 3-4 pages. Give out prompt for third assignment.

Screening: Soul Food (George Tillman jr, 1997)

Thursday: film discussion. Read: chapter 8 from Reel Food


WEEK  7 

Thursday: watch Imaginary Feasts (Anne Georget, 2016) online on your own


WEEK  8 

Tuesday:  third assignment due in class: personal essay inspired by Imaginary Feasts – what is the role of imagination in your life? (3-4 pages)

Screening: Pulp Fiction  (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)

Thursday: film discussion. Read: Chapter 14 from Reel Food


WEEK  9 

Tuesday:  Presentations (3). Give out prompt for fourth assignment.

Screening:  Jiro Dreams of Sushi (David Gelb, 2011)

Thursday:  film discussion. Read:  http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/jiro-dreams-of-sushi-2012 ; http://www.indiewire.com/2012/03/review-jiro-dreams-of-sushi-a-fascinating-if-sometimes-jarring-profile-of-a-master-chef-112470/ ; http://lifehacker.com/5958304/lessons-we-can-learn-from-jiro-ono


WEEK  10 

Tuesday: fourth assignment due in class: in-depth, close reading scene analysis (3-4 pages)

Screening: Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro 1991)

Thursday: Film discussion. Read: Chapter 17 from Reel Food


WEEK  11 



WEEK  12

Tuesday:  Presentations (2).

Screening: The Lunchbox (Ritesh Batra, 2013)

Thursday:  film discussion. Read: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/28/movies/the-lunchbox-with-irrfan-khan-mumbai-mix-up.html ; http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-lunchbox-review-20140228-story.html ; http://scholarpublishing.org/index.php/ASSRJ/article/view/2403/1371


WEEK  13 

Tuesday:  Presentations (2), Oratory Now coaching session

Screening: The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover (Peter Greenaway, 1989)

Thursday: Read: Chapter 16 from Reel Food

FINAL PAPERS DUE – 6-8 pages research paper on a film of your choosing that has food as a significant topic.



Born and raised in Romania, Ioana Uricaru studied biology before turning to filmmaking and film studies. She is an alum of Berlinale Talents, the Cannes Cinéfondation Résidence du Festival, and the Sundance Institute Screenwriters and Directors Labs. In 2016 she was a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. Her films have been selected in the Cannes, Sundance, AFI, Tribeca and Berlin film festivals. Her scholarly work was published in The Velvet Light Trap, Film Quarterly and in several anthologies.

Photo: Film, Big Night
Published on September 5, 2018.


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