ReviewWriter: Casey LeeWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Key of Life”, “The Woodsman and the Rain” and Japanese food.
Based on the autobiographies of Japanese Coast Guard chef Jun Nishimura, who gets stationed at the Dome Fuji Station in the Antarctica in 1997, "The Chef of South Polar" is a lighthearted and cheery account of the 8-men research team, as they spend a year and a half living in one of the world's most frigid and desolate landscapes with temperatures so far below freezing that even viruses find it inhabitable.
"The Chef of South Polar" runs with a sense of freedom as it doesn't have a moving central plot, but it mostly relies on the day-to-day antics of the crew. In between the boring routines of drilling for ancient ice cores or getting out of the snow, the fun comes from the most trivial incidents of their daily lives, whether it's queuing up to take a dump or running across the endless ice and snow with a burning chunk of beef (you have to see it to believe it). While there are a few personal arcs for some the characters, there is no heavy handed drama to spoil the fun.
These moments of cheeriness are brought on by an enjoyable cast. Festival goers may recognize Masato Sakai from last year's "Key of Life" as the titular character, but each and every other actor that play as the crew here have such strong and natural chemistry that you would be warmed by the amount of laughter you would have from their natural comical antics.
Although the movie runs on the simple everyday proceedings of life in a polar station, director Okita Shuichi doesn't let his storytelling technique go sloppy in his feature debut. Okita directs his cast like a chef with a keen eye, and this is well demonstrated with the scene of the crew gathering on the dining table summarising their relationship, and capturing the joys of having good food on the table into a single take.
Aside from the cheeky antics from the characters, there is a glorious amount of food that is being showcased here. Avid Japanese food lovers and food Instagram-ers should be warned to not enter the screening with an empty stomach because Okita's sweeping shots and angled close ups of various Japanese delicacies being prepared and consumed is such an appetizing sight that you don't want to embarrass yourself with a growling stomach. This is not helped by the cast that is almost too brilliant at gushing over the next hot meal that comes out of the kitchen, as it is only here that, after just seeing them enjoying a bowl of hot soup ramen, feels like they have experienced heaven.
But even as all good things come to an end, "The Chef of South Polar" is a tantalizing treat for the eye and a satisfying one for the soul. This is easily the most deliciously crowd-pleasing of this year's selection and it should not be missed... unless you hate food.Cinema Online, 18 September 2013