Nowadays it certainly feels like most people approach food with the same sensibilities that they would approach politics – an emotional reaction based solely on what they think is right. This is something I routinely encountered years ago during a brief stint working in a meat department at a grocery store. When most documentaries approach dietary topics, there’s an overwhelming panic and fear that further exacerbates the emotionality that dictates food choices for many. What ever happened to enjoying food, embracing the aroma and flavors of the palate? French filmmaker Franck Ribière has opted to look for the finest steak in the world, enlisting the help of his personal favorite butcher, Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec. The resulting film, Steak (R)evolution, may not be a cinematic marvel, but it’s a mostly engaging examination of the beef throughout the world.
The film isn’t merely a travelogue featuring two Frenchmen eating various types of meat. Ribière and Le Bourdonnec are very interested in their subject and approach it from a number of different angles, as well as continents. They visit Peter Luger’s Steakhouse in Brooklyn, as well as other butcher shops, farms, and restaurants across North America. They examine the Japanese methods behind Kobe and Matsusaka beef, some of the most expensive cuts in the world. A significant portion of the conversations in the different locales are related to specific species of cattle and how they’re adapted to each climate. There’s also an examination in the difference in diet, looking at the debate surrounding grain-fed and grass-fed cattle, and their role in larger ecological sustainability.
But Steak (R)evolution isn’t without its faults, mainly that it runs a tad too long and some of its larger points get muddled by a scattershot approach. Even with its minor flaws, it is interesting to see how beef is prepared and grown in different parts of the world. It’s also fascinating to see the diffrerent ways that people are trying to craft a better, more sustainable form of beef – there’s a forward-looking optimism that is quite refreshing. Obviously, this film isn’t for everyone. Steak (R)evolution is mainly for serious foodies and those looking to separate the fact and fiction about various angles about beef. One thing is for certain, you don’t want to watch Steak (R)evolution on an empty stomach.
Steak (R)evolution begins a one-week run at Landmark’s Nuart Theater in Los Angeles starting August 28th.