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14 Nov 12
Now, Forager

"If only one could tell true love from false love as one can tell mushrooms from toadstools."

Katherine Mansfield


Jason Courtland and Julia Halperin's Now, Forager offers up a delectable smorgasbord of comedy, drama and mushrooms, which makes for a refreshingly original low-budget feature.

Cinema's love affair with food has been a long one. From the simplicity of Babette's Feast (1987) and the playfulness of Tampopo (1985 ) to the pressures of the restaurant business in Big Night (1995) and family life in Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), the relationship between film and gastronomy has produced countless appetisers. (The link with decadence has also figured heavily, in films such as Marco Ferreri's La grande bouffe (1973), Tinto Brass' Caligula (1979) and Dušan Makavajev's truly disturbing 1974 satire Sweet Movie.) Now, Forager, whose title is a play on a line from Walt Whitman's poem 'The Untold Want', ventures into the world of commercial mushroom collecting, as it follows Lucien and Regina, two experts in edible fungi, in their attempts to eek out a living by supplying upmarket Manhattan restaurants with ingredients for ever more inventive dishes. However, with the market becoming more competitive, the economy tanking and some collectors employing muscle to mark out their territory, life becomes increasingly difficult.

The pleasure of Now, Forager lies in the way Halperin and Courtland, who plays Lucien, take familiar narrative elements and place them against a unique landscape. Its riches lie in the many details, from a guide to the many different fungal species (these divide the film into chapters the same way that recipes break-up the shifts in narrative in Alfonso Arau's 1992 adaptation of Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate), to the workings of a restaurant. They are interspersed amongst the scenes of domestic strife, as Lucien and Regina's relationship becomes increasingly turbulent.

Both Cortauld and Tiffany Esteb are impressive as the leads. Esteb in particular excels in the way she has Regina betraying occasional irritation with Lucien, which soon grows into an inability to fathom her partner's aims in life, realising that their futures may not be heading on the same course. As Lucien, Cortauld offers a masterclass in inscrutability, allowing us to sympathise with Regina's predicament. His frustration with culinary luddites makes for some of the film's best comic moments, particularly the fish-out-of-water passage, where he is employed to prepare a banquet under the charge of a senator's wife.

The film skilfully weaves its narrative threads, drawing on the different locales to contrast the happiness the couple's experiences together in the countryside against the discomfort of their cramped life in the city. It is not a film that champions the rural over the urban – although when we see him alone in his log cabin, it isn't too much of an imaginative leap to think of Lucien as an herbaceous Ted Kaczynski – but it does allows us to ruminate on the speed at which we live our lives. We may grace the best restaurants, but do we really take the time to appreciate the food we are served? Now, Forager is a celebration of the flavours nature offers us. Just make sure you've eaten before you see it.

Ian Haydn Smith
AFF English Daily Editor

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