Faith Akin is best known for his dark, serious films ('Head On', 'The Edge of Heaven', 'Short Sharp Shock', 'Crossing the Bridge: The Sounds of Istanbul', etc) so it is somewhat surprising to find he has such a deft touch for comedy. SOUL KITCHEN languished for a while before Akin decided that 'life is not only about pain and introspection', and so he turned his rather formidable talents to creating this new film - a comedy about food, family and gentrification. He co-wrote the script with star Adam Bousdoukos in a manner that mirrors his other works: people from other countries (Akin is Turkish raised in Germany, Bousdoukos is Greek raised in Germany) can assimilate without losing the unique treasured aspects of their ethnicity.
The setting is Hamburg where Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos) owns a grungy but popular with the locals restaurant, Soul Kitchen, serving quickly prepared frozen foods to a gastronomically unsophisticated clientele. Zinos is also a romantic, struggling with his conflict to join his journalist girlfriend Nadine (Pheline Roggan) who wants Zinos to accompany her to her latest living assignment in Shanghai, but being afraid to leave his beloved restaurant. Zinos decides to stay in Hamburg -opening the door for other factors to enter Zinos' life: he encounters a fired chef Shayn (Birol Ünel) whose cranky disposition can't hide the fact that he is a brilliant chef in need of work (Zinos hires him!),an old friend Thomas Neumann (Wotan Wilke Möhring) who has become a real estate entrepreneur want to buy Zinos' old building, Zinos' ne're-do-well brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu) is in prison but can get leaves if Zinos with be his patron for a work-release program, a new crowd of jazz music lovers and partygoers flood the premises, etc. All of these ingredients, including the staff of the restaurant Lucia (Anna Bederke),funky old Sokrates (Demir Gökgöl),and Lutz (Lukas Gregorowicz),blend together to produce harrowing but hilarious results. In the end the transformations of Soul Kitchen emphasize the importance of family and living a dream, and the despite the many pratfalls Zinos encounters, the changes all come out in the wash for the better.
This cast manages to exude a love for life that makes the move soar above others, despite the usual at times crude jokes and situations. It just bubbles, and a fine part of that effervescence is from the music score.
In Hamburg, Zinos has a restaurant serving poor-man's fare; he gets by, but his girlfriend has taken a job in Shanghai, he's hurt his back and can't cook, his feckless brother can be on daily parole from jail only if Zinos employs him (though his brother doesn't want to work),a school acquaintance wants to buy the restaurant property, and the tax authority and health inspector are on his case. Zinos hires a temperamental chef and loses all his customers, signs a power of attorney giving his brother full authority at the restaurant, and buys a ticket to Shanghai. Is this a recipe for disaster?—
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