8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 21, 1996
Charming 'Big Night'
A tender feast
By Julia Shih
For the Daily
"To eat good food is to be close to
God," says Primo in the film "Big
Night." Well, if you can't find good
food, you might still be able to get close
to God by watching one of the most tan-
talizing food movies ever made.
"Big Night" stars Tony Shalhoub
(Primo) and Stanley Tucci (Secondo),
two Italian brothers who own a quaint
little restaurant in the 1950s. They spe-
cialize in authentic Italian food touched
by perfection, such as exquisite seafood
risotto and timpano. Primo, the elder, is
the masterful .chef who prepares each
dish with expertise and care.
Regardless, in an age when Italian cui-
sine is defined by spaghetti and meat-
balls, the customers do not appreciate
the quality of the dishes they are served.
In the opening scene, one customer
complains that she wants a side of
spaghetti with her risotto. Secondo,
who is only too eager to please the cus-
tomer, does not see any problem with
her request. Primo, on the other hand, is
insulted. He yells, "Maybe I put mashed
potatoes for the other side!" This is the
first hint of the clash between tradition
and profit-making that will become a
major conflict in the rest of the film.
As business is lackluster and the
bank threatens to foreclose, the broth-
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Fall Term 1996
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Tuesday, October 22, 1996,7:00-9:00 PM, 4th Floor Terrace, East Hall
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Enter East Hall by the Psychology Church St. entrance.
The elevator is to the left. Go'to the fourth floorR
and follow signs to the Terrace.
ers are forced into desperate measures.
Secondo goes to another restaurant
owner, Pascal (Ian Holm), for a loan
and some advice. Pascal is the owner of
the incredibly successful and popular
Italian restaurant across the street.
Primo despises Pascal because he
serves cheap food at expensive prices,
but Secondo admires the man's entre-
preneur skills of giving the customers
what they want.
Pascal refuses to
lend the brothers RI
his ultimate goal M
is to have them
close their restau- a
rant and work for
him. He promises
to do Secondo a favor, though, as a sup-
posed effort to help the brothers save
their restaurant. He offers to invite his
"good friend" Italian American vocalist
Louis Prima to dine at their restaurant.
The plan is to impress the singer with
the great food, so that he will spread the
word. Secondo, without stopping to
wonder why Pascal would do him a
favor, enthusiastically agrees.
Primo and Secondo invest the rest of
their savings on the "big night." They
invite everyone they know to the ban-
quet, including Secondo's girlfriend
Phyllis (Minnie Driver), Pascal, the
hostess from Pascal's restaurant whom
Secondo has secretly been seeing
(Isabella Rossellini) and a car salesman
whom Secondo meets while out shop-
ping (Campbell Scott).
The preparation for the feast is filled
with exhilaration and anticipation, as
each creation is a masterpiece in its own
right. This most definitely promises to
be a meal that Louis Prima will never
forget. But as the big night is upon them
and the guest of honor has not arrived,
Prima and Secondo decide to begin
serving the meal.
With each amaz-
,V I E W ing dish, the
guests revel in
Big Night ecstasy as the
*** food they are
the Michigan Theater served is deli-
belief. By the end
of the night, everyone is content with
the unbelievably incredible eating expe-
rience. Meanwhile, "Big Night" takes
the characters through a series of reve-
lations that change their lives enor-
"Big Night," unlike most of the
movies dealt out by the movie industry,
is one which relies effectively on sub-
tlety. Though it received the Waldo Salt
Screenwriting Award at the 1996
Sundance Film Festival, much of the
movie communicates through subtle
gestures rather than words.
One charming scene shows Primo
visiting they local florist on the day of
the banquet. Primo desperately wants to
"No no no. I said spaghetti, not rigatoni."
invite her to the dinner, but is much too
shy. Though the two are obviously
attraQted to each other, they are unable
to coiiinunicate their feelings through
words. This scene contains an inno-
cence about it that is a nostalgic
reminder of romance in those awkward
Shalhoub and Tucci achieve a rare
kind of chemistry on the screen. As
brothers %vith different values, they
maintain a close spiritual bond, though
their views seem to tear them apart. The
skill of these actors combined with the
depth of their characters makes this
movie particular entertaining.
Ihe li& ges of the dishes prepared by
Prinllo. senothing less than breathtak-
ing4 n The style of great film s snli' as
"Like Water For Chocolate" and "Eat
Drink Man Woman," the movie centers
around food and its significance. The
wonderful shot sequences of savory
dishes, as they are prepared and pre-
sented, are some of the best ingredients
of this movie.
"Big Night" is a film that draws you
in with the rich images of mouthwater-
ing food, but leaves you with a touch*
story about life, tradition and relation-
ships. The movie is not overly compli-
cated, which adds greatly to its charm.
It speaks with a language that is too
complex for words, yet is easily under-
stood. Full of texture and warmth, "Big
Night" will leave audiences feeling sat-
isfied, as if they too, have just experi-
enced the best meal of their lives.
EASTER M1CHIGAN UNIVERSITY
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For mart information call the Ofice o Campus Lifeat 33 /487-3045.
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