A Touch of Spice

Starring Georges Corraface. Rated PG. In English, Greek, and Turkish with English subtitles. Now playing at the Granville 7

It all comes back to the teat, meaning life at the start. That’s the central premise of this intoxicating, sometimes absurdly overbaked family melodrama about people and food.

The folks in this colour-saturated fable aren’t just anybody. They are the Greeks of Istanbul, forced back across the Bosporus during many conflicts between Christian Greece and Muslim Turkey.

The film begins and ends with the boyishly middle-aged Fanis (shaggy-haired Georges Corraface) attempting to reconnect with his Turkish childhood. He does this mostly through a wise old grandfather (Tassos Bandis), a spice merchant who remains the same while we watch Fanis at different ages (played by various young actors) learn to become, in grandpa’s word, a “gastronomer”—an astrophysicist whose first love is food.

This background is very close to that of writer-director Tassos Boulmetis, who applies his skills to complex, computer-aided design pieces that are stunning in several senses of the word. Boulmetis never knows when to quit, whether it’s a tracking shot that goes on forever or bits of dialogue that seem tart at first but become cloying after the umpteenth iteration.

That persistence is part of the pungent tale’s charm, however, and will endear the effort (called Political Cuisine in Greece when it left the oven in 2003) to fans of sweepingly sentimental Europics like Cinema Paradiso and Life Is Beautiful.

If that sounds dismissive, factor in the appeal of the large cast, led by the French-born Corraface, who played the title character in Christopher Columbus: The Discovery and who has been in items as different as Escape From L.A. and Red Shoe Diaries. Pretty sure there were bosoms in those things too.

Watch the film's trailer: