Fatih Akin has many hats to wear. He is a writer, director, actor, former teacher and, as his new movie attests, a soul man. He has a vast collection of LPs from the ’70s, and when I interviewed him about his new movie, “Soul Kitchen,” I asked him how many he owned. He told me that he wasn’t sure but during this press tour alone he was going broke buying them up from specialty shops, especially during the New York City stop. “I’m collecting vinyl, and I spent a lot of money for very few records there,” he said.
Not Rated, 99 minutes
Starring: Adam Bousdoukos, Moritz Bleibtreu
German film with English subtitles
Meg’s rating: Recommended
Fatih Akin has many hats to wear. He is a writer, director, actor, former teacher and, as his new movie attests, a soul man.
He has a vast collection of LPs from the ’70s, and when I interviewed him about his new movie, “Soul Kitchen,” I asked him how many he owned. He told me that he wasn’t sure but during this press tour alone he was going broke buying them up from specialty shops, especially during the New York City stop. “I’m collecting vinyl, and I spent a lot of money for very few records there,” he said.
The good news for moviegoers — who like a good German subtitled farce — is that “Soul Kitchen” has all the ingredients for a fun night out. Sure, it is filled with predictable set-ups, but I still found it to be a charming little film with a lot of heart.
It is the story of two German-Greek brothers who couldn’t be more different. The hard-working Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos) owns a restaurant called Soul Kitchen, but his chronic disorganization threatens the business. All of his efforts go into saving the little eatery, which means he has very little time left for his girlfriend, who is soon moving to Japan for her career. The long-distance relationship is difficult to maintain, although he tries rather comically to keep the romance alive across the miles via Skype. The addition of a new hot-tempered chef certainly spices things up at the restaurant and adds to the humor.
Zinos’s brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu) is a criminal constantly in and out of jail for petty thefts. He has no idea what hard work means until his brother hires him to help out at the restaurant. It doesn’t take long for the audience to realize just how badly Illias is going to screw things up for his brother’s beloved Soul Kitchen. But a little romance with a tough-talking waitress may be all the ex-con needs to turn his life around.
Casting the lead was easy for Akin since Bousdoukos was already a good friend who just happened to provide a great life story. He had owned a restaurant for years and lost a girlfriend over his obsession with it. Akin described his friend as “the owner of a restaurant first, an actor second, and this is his first time writing a script.”
When I asked him if it was difficult to direct such a good friend, he replied, “For me it was more difficult than him to separate our friendship from the work. I thought, ‘Oh, God this will be the end of us,’ but he has a much thicker skin than I have.”
Knowing Akin had some acting experience under his belt, I asked if that helped him empathize with the actors on the other side of the camera. He replied, “The more and more I work with actors, the more I lose my patience. I throw things a lot!”
The independent film has already charmed jurors at the Venice film festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize. When I asked him about the accolades for “Soul Kitchen” he said, “The Venice win was surprising because I had a reputation as a serious filmmaker and I thought people were going to kill me for a comedy. So to get an award for it in Venice from Ang Lee. That one, from all my awards, was somehow the warmest in a way because it was the least expected.”
What audiences can expect from “Soul Kitchen” is nothing too deep, just a delicious little story with romance, heartache, sibling rivalry and ultimately, the unbreakable bond of brotherly love. All of which is set to a soulful soundtrack, courtesy of Akin’s musical taste found in his collection of LPs.