TOUCH OF SPICE, A
Fanis Iakovidis (George Corraface) is a 40 year-old professor of astrophysics living in Athens, who is at the crossroads. Growing up as a young Greek boy in his birthplace of Istanbul, Little Fanis (Markos Osse) was greatly influenced by his beloved grandfather, a culinary philosopher who taught him that both food and life require a little salt to give them flavour. Forced to leave Istanbul during the political conflict between Greece and Turkey, Fanis has not seen his grandfather for 35 years, and now it seems that the old man is coming to visit at last. When his grandfather becomes ill at the last minute, Fanis returns to Istanbul and embarks on an emotional journey that takes him back to his childhood, remembering Saime (Basak Köklükaya), the girl he left behind.
Review by Louise Keller:
In the after-glow of Olympic-fever, A Touch of Spice, is a bitter-sweet coming of age story that uses the flavour of spices to philosophise about life. Billed as Greece's answer to 'Like Water For Chocolate' and one of its most popular films of all time, A Touch of Spice is a nostalgic and leisurely paced tale. There's considerable emotional payoff, but a little patience is required. The tone is subtle and the humour wry, but national pride is an integral element and there's a strong sense of belonging and knowing who you are.
Based on his own experiences, writer/director Tassos Boulmetic (who was born in Constantinople and studied physics in Athens) has structured the film like a good meal - into courses (or sections). In 'the appetiser' we meet young Fanis, who grows up learning that it is spices and flavours that lift both our cuisine and everyday lives. After all, what a difference a sprinkling of cinnamon makes to meatballs.... Parallels are drawn between the flavour of spices and the planets of the universe. There are rich memories of an impressionable youth, the love of a young boy for his grandfather and the girl who steals his heart. How can we not be enchanted by scenes like the one when we, like Fanis, watch the pretty, wide-eyed Saime with thick dark curls and frilly dress, dance in his grandfather's attic, amid hanging garlands of garlic cloves and chillies.
Joy, discovery, love and regret are the signposts of this emotional journey, and the script is filled with sage-like expressions, like 'Relationships without arguments are like weddings without music.' There are some chuckles as an elderly aunt with Parkinsons loses, regains and loses her afflictions by the shock of the vibration of a blender or other such daily events.
Georges Corraface brings gravitas to the mature Fanis, while Markos Osse is excellent as the young boy. I worried a little that Fanis' grandfather did not appear to age after 35 years, but we connect immediately to both Fanis and Saime when they meet again in Constantinople after many years. I especially like the way the relationship between Saime's estranged doctor husband and Fanis is handled as he recognises that it is time to tread down memory lane.
While it may not be the runaway success of its native land, A Touch of Spice, Greece's official selection for the 2005 Best Foreign Language Oscars, will undoubtedly be warmly embraced by both the Greek Community and lovers of world cinema. (Many of the subtitles are in italics- representing Fanis' narration as he recalls his youth - and difficult to read).
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TOUCH OF SPICE, A (M)
CAST: Georges Corraface, Basak Köklükaya, Ieroklis Michaelidis, Renia Louizidou, Stelios Mainas, Tamer Karadagli, Basak Köklükaya, Tassos Bandis, Markos Osse
PRODUCER: Lily Papadopoulos
DIRECTOR: Tassos Boulmetis
SCRIPT: Tassos Boulmetis
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Takis Zervoulakos
EDITOR: Yorgos Mavropsaridis
MUSIC: Evanthia Reboutsika
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Not credited
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney/Melbourne: September 30, 2004; Brisbane: October 7, 2004; Adelaide; October 14, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: February 17, 2005