The One Hundred-Foot Journey–A Gentle Argument Against Xenophobia

In the sometimes virulent (A. O. Scott) reviews of this film, most forgot to talk about its main theme–only Variety paid tribute to it.  The One Hundred Foot Journey, directed by Lasse Halstrom, continues his campaign against xenophobia–the outsider in My Life As a Dog, the gypsy in Chocolat, and now the Indian family in France.  Personally, I consider this to be a good idea, unlike Scott, who speaks of Halstrom’s “easygoing blend of elegance and vulgarity that has been his signature at least since Chocolat.” Now, Chocolat is one of my favorites and vulgar is the last thing you could call that film or this one, for that matter.

book cover( Based on the book by Richard C. Morais, the film sports little apparent conflict and nothing too terrible happens. Actually, there is plenty of conflict among the characters, but it is low key–and frankly, that’s how I like my conflict.

Scott goes on to tell us that the great score by A. R. Rahman sounds like “transnational airport music.” Actually Rahman, according to our cab driver, a Bengali who gently inserted himself in our conversation to identify the film’s Indian language as Hindi, is a famous composer. By the way, Rahman won TWO Academy Awards for Slumdog Millionaire. We loved the music in Journey and we don’t much care for airport music.


There’s a lot of condescending talk about “food porn,” but this is one kind of porn I’m in favor of. Never have vegetables looked so tempting and they really do look that way in France. And so do spices from India.


Refugees first from a tragedy in India, then from rain in England, the Kadam family takes root in a heavenly French village near a forest where some first rate mushrooms grow. Clearly, for a chef, paradise.

family around table outside(

Old pros Om Puri (Papa Kadam) and Helen Mirren (Madame Mallory) play dirty tricks on each other while Manish Dayal (Hassan) and Charlotte Le Bon (Marguerite) meet in the countryside.

hassan and marguuerite in the country( Papa believes in classical Indian cooking,

Kadam-Family-at-the-Market( while Hassan is a gifted young chef who wants to learn French cooking and we are all for it. Famous sauces, traditional recipes, mentoring from Marguerite,

hassan and marguerite( and imaginative innovations by Hassan parade before our eyes. Just fine.


As in Chocolat, an ugly xenophobic incident triggers a reappraisal of old attitudes. Right now, with ugly things happening in my beloved France and elsewhere in Europe–for that matter, in Ferguson, MO–this is a message, obviously of great importance to Halstrom, that we need to hear. Having a town in France named, La Mort Aux Juifs (Death to the Jews), is bad enough, but having the mayor state comfortingly, “Why change a name that goes back to the Middle Ages or even further? We should respect these old names…. No one has anything against the Jews, of course” ( makes it about 10 times worse.

The rest of the film is taken up with Hassan’s climb to reach the stars–Michelin stars that is.


All in all, this is a feast for the senses and the mind. So, pay no attention to the naysayers–they like to carp. Go and enjoy.


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