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Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles

★★★★ - ABC RADIO 

Documentary filmmaker Laura Gabbert has struck (delicious) gold with her latest film, Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles. For foodies and fans of reality TV cooking programmes, this is a no-brainer as the documentary follows some of the finest dessert chefs in the world as they combine their talents to put on an edible live art show at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of their 2018 "Visitors to Versailles" exhibition, under the guidance of celebrated chef Yotam Ottolenghi.

But for those of us who do not consider ourselves as a part of this particular demographic, with Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles Gabbert has more than enough up her sleeve beyond the deadline-focused cooking countdown scenario so familiar to fans of that kind of television. Using the expanded time limit a feature-length film allows her, through the central figure of the charismatic and visionary Ottolenghi himself, Gabbert opens up an entire new way of thinking about these tasty little morsels that consciously - and at times very explicitly - frames the creations of desserts and pastries as a true art form.

Spanning discussions about other forms of artistic production and creativity spanning from architecture to ballet, at the heart of the film lies the Met's framing of the broader social, cultural and historical significance of Versailles not just in European history, but its legacy around the world in terms of the kinds of excesses and opulence that have become synonymous with a certain kind of unrestrained wealth and power. While staunchly reminding us that Marie Antoinette's famous "let them eat cake!" declaration is broadly understood to be apocryphal - there is no evidence that she said this at all - Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles shrewdly balances a careful juggling act between allowing us to celebrate the breathtaking edible artworks that the film documents, while simultaneously demanding we question the broader social, cultural and economic symbolism of such work, tied as they are to this infamous historical moment.

- Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, ABC RADIO

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles is now playing at Light House Cinema!

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