French Girl turns movie critic at the Seattle International Film Festival (part I)


March 25, 2018 update. Dear French Girl in Seattle readers:
As you may know, I am currently working on the upcoming launch of the new French Girl in Seattle website. This entails going through several years’ worth of blog entries, reviewing and classifying them. I just found out that due to a technical glitch, subscribers received an email notification about this article today. I apologize for the inconvenience! This is not a new story (I wrote it in 2012.) Our web designer is currently working at ironing out a few kinks so we can launch the new site in the next few weeks.
Thank you for your patience, Véronique
Forget Cannes! Seattle is currently hosting the largest film festival in the United States, the 39th S.I.F.F. 
Over three weeks, the festival shows about 250 features, representing many countries around the world. Most movies are playing in iconic (read old fashioned) movie theaters in the Emerald city. My favorite kind of theaters, you may remember
A few days ago, I received an email from the Festival team. They offered me free access to the French movie selection (and their crews whenever they were in town.) It seems the word has gotten out French Girl in Seattle loves le cinéma! They even threw in a Press card. Oh, là, là!
I was contacted too late to get to see all of the movies, but with some careful planning (and the help of a few girlfriends,) it will be my pleasure to work around my schedule and Junior‘s to catch a few shows.
Today, I would like to introduce a must-see French movie.


Christian Vincent’s Haute Cuisine is an excellent translation of the clever French title, Les Saveurs du Palais. See movie release information at the end of the post.
Haute Cuisine is based on a true story: In the 1990s, Socialist French President François Mitterrand head-hunted Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch, a skilled chef based in the beautiful Dordogne region, and brought her to the Elysée Palace (the French White House,) to work as his private chef and help him rediscover “les plats que [lui] faisait [sa] grand-mère,” (the tastes of his childhood.)
In the movie version, the president is interpreted with sheer delectation by an amateur actor, journalist and French Academy member Jean d’Ormesson. The Chef, Hortense Laborie, is masterfully played by Catherine Frot, one of France’s most popular and versatile actresses. 
The movie is imperfect, but it works. Like one of Hortense’s delectable confections, it is multi-layered and offers fascinating insights into French society and culture.
Let’s be clear: The story is an ode to food. The movie shines when we watch Hortense, (a perfectionist in search of the finest ingredients,) prepare traditional French specialties for the president, with a total disregard for cost, or dietetics. [Note to readers: Do not watch this one on an empty stomach!]

“La du Barry des fourneaux…”
(the kitchen du Barry) 

But when the movie starts, we quickly realize Hortense‘s years as the Elysée Palace private chef are over. She has since moved on to bring culinary excellence to grateful scientists at a French antarctic mission! 
What happened? The movie is a flashback, and will try and bring some answers.
The scenes at the Elysée Palace, as Hortense learns to maneuver around the protocol and internal rivalries among the staff are the most enjoyable ones. Decisive, undaunted, petulant at times, Hortense stands her ground, and when working in the private Elysée kitchen, she dazzles. Her rare exchanges with the older president are delightful. 

Hortense et le président

This is quality popular cinema. The movie is smart, engaging and entertaining. It illustrates a few truths most French people hold as self-evident: 
1. The French once fought a bloody revolution to get rid of autocratic monarchs so they could replace them with [elected] presidents who behave like kings.
2.  A happy man knows and respects his roots; his culture; his terroir and indulges often in a healthy dose of nostalgia.
3. Choux farci au saumon. Boeuf en croûte de sel. St Honoré à la sauce Mémé (all recipes featured in the movie:) 
Scr-#$@ the dietetician: Eat and drink everything, in moderation. 
A bientôt
Haute Cuisine (*)
(in French, subtitled)
Seattle International Film Festival (S.I.F.F.)
May 31 – 9:30pm – Egyptian Theater, Seattle, WA.
June 1 – 8:30pm – Kirkland Performance Center, Kirkland, WA
Box office: 
or book online
Mention coupon code “FRENCH2013” and get $2 off per ticket

(*) (ed: Downton Abbey meets [the French] Julia Child)

Movie trailer here: 





Dear readers:

If you enjoy exploring France and French culture like a native, consider signing up for la Mailing List to receive exclusive travel stories first via email, or join me daily on Facebook and Instagram.

What did you think about this article? Let me know in the comment section below, (I love reading your messages and reply to most.) Don’t be selfish and share with a friend! Merci. Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)


  • I can’t wait to see this … somehow I have missed it… and I am so looking forward to it…
    Enjoy the films, Veronique… and have a wonderful weekend… xv

  • tres fabulous, Veronique. Lucky me, to live and Seattle and have YOU to guide me to the right films! I love the SIFF, but it can be overwhelming if you don’t have time to do your research. Merci et bon weekend! xo, ebh

  • je n’ai jamais entendu parler de ce festival du film!!Trop super d’avoir été invitée comme jurée, le rêve!Et donc, il y a des equipes françaises de films qui sont là?.. tu as pu en rencontrer?..Tu en dis trop ou pas assez , j’attend la suite avec impatience! En tous cas , tu dois te regaler! Profite bien de cette belle occasion!

    • Merci Malyss. Oui, il y a des équipes de film présentes en théorie, mais pas pour tous les films, et j’ai découvert tout ça un peu tard cette année (mais je me rattraperai l’année prochaine…) Il y a par exemple le film “Je me suis fait tout petit” et la réalisatrice, Cécilia Rouaud, sera là pendant 48 heures. Les interviews, ça m’intimide un peu quand même, mais avec un peu de pratique… 🙂

    • Quand tu en auras vu un peu plus , j’aimerais bien savoir comment les Americains reçoivent et perçoivent les films français?..Même enthousiasme que pour les blogs sur Paris? recherche des clichés? interet plus historique? (Angelique-ben oui, finalement c’est terriblement français!)J’adore les films de cape et d’épée de cette époque, avec Gerard Barray! )

    • Ah, Gérard Barray. J’en ai passé, des bons dimanche après-midi en sa compagnie… 🙂 Jean Marais, Gerard Philippe, aussi…

      Les critiques des films français présentés jusqu’ici sont plutôt bonnes. Malheureusement, c’est l’accès aux films par le grand public qui est un vrai problème. Ils ne sont pas distribués dans tous le pays. Quelques mois plus tard, on peut y accéder par des services de location sur Internet (comme Netflix par exemple.) Il y a un grand producteur Hollywoodien, Harvey Weinstein, qui distribue depuis plusieurs années de nombreux films français. Il était notamment derrière l’excellent film “l’Artiste,” avec Dujardin et Bejo. C’est lui qui distribue et pousse “Haute Cuisine.” Si un type comme Weinstein est convaincu que les films français peuvent être rentables aux USA (malgré les sous-titres qui limitent la grande diffusion,) alors c’est une bonne nouvelle pour le cinéma français. Dans le passé, ils avaient plutôt tendance à faire de [mauvais] remakes des films étrangers, ce qui gachaît tout.

  • Dearest Véronique,
    Lucky you for being chosen as a French movie critic. You will fit that role very well. I would have to pass as with our life style and juggling several languages we lack(ed) the time to watch movies. Next life I guess…? Our preference always has been historic movies like e.g. Angélique (yes, I do have that in French and LOVE it…).
    Enjoy your weekend.

    • Bonjour Mariette. Well, I don’t know if I was chosen as movie critic, but I am grateful for the opportunity to see the movies before they are released in the United States 🙂 Ah, Angelique. A classic. I recently saw the first movie in the series on TV5. Michelle Mercier… Beautiful!

  • This movie sounds perfect – I love all about France and food and cooking. I can’t wait to see the film here in Germany (which might be not so soon, I fear)
    Have a nice weekend, bisous, Monika

  • Lucky you to get a press pass and see all these wonderful films – like you I love the cinema and this film sounds a real gem….I wish the Cannes festival had greater access to the ordinary public…although quite a lot of the films are already showing in Nice….enjoy reviewing….

    • I would expect the Festival de Cannes to be a lot more exclusive than the SIFF. It’s really not that difficult to see movies here. Time (and distance) are bigger problems to me than access. Enjoy this year’s selection in Nice…

  • IL FAUT LE REGARDER, CE FILM! Oh Véronique, I have a huge collection of French films and this one is a must-see! What a fantastic opportunity for YOU to be a part of this artistic collaboration! You have now given me another movie to search for and watch on these cold nights we are having! BON WEEKEND! Anita

    • Bonjour Anita. This movie will definitely warm you up on cold nights and will make you laugh… well, with the exception of the scenes shot at the French Antarctic mission 🙂 They were not my favorites and slowed down the general pace of the story, I thought. But the [flashback] Paris scenes alone are worth the cost of admission! Let me know what you think when you see it, ok?

  • What a delicious, and fun movie, and now a must see for me! Thank you for posting this Veronique. 🙂 And i for one think you would do very well as a full time film critic!

  • Lucky you! What a great invitation and in old style theatres too. I remember from my post about our local cinema that you love these traditional ones. I shall have to buy this on DVD as your review has definitely sold it to me. It sounds like an easy to watch, entertaining film. I look forward to more of your reviews!

  • How fun to be a critique at the festival! Enjoy! I’m looking forward to your reviews. Haute Cuisine looks great – a film about France and food?! Sounds fantastique!

  • I am reminded of one of my very favorite films, “Le Festin de Babette.” Every time I watch it I am dissolved in tears at the end. It has my favorite ingredients: haute cuisine and opera. Could this new movie become one of my favorite delectations, as well? I can’t wait to see it.

    Merci beaucoup ma chère Véro,

    Big bisous, M-T

    • Ok M-T. This [budding] movie critic will be honest: This ain’t “Le Festin de Babette,” not quite the same category if you will, but still, good, enjoyable, popular cinema (minus the opera…) Let me know what you thought. Bisous.

  • I love the press card Veronique 🙂 licence to watch loads of foreign movies and in lovely old movie theatres, bliss! I saw Haute Cuisine a few weeks ago with my sister, we both enjoyed it very never ceases to amaze me the dedication the French nation has for food, inspiring!

    • Licence yes, but it is the time I don’t have. I will be much more organized next year, definitely. 🙂 It is hard to get organized when you are a single mom… and the kid always comes first. But as I said above, I have a great network of friends who help out whenever they can. And I am lucky for that.

      On another note, so glad you were able to catch the movie in your corner of the world. It seems destined for a successful (and well deserved) international career. A bientôt, Grace.

    • Merci de votre commentaire! Ce billet date en effet de plusieurs années. Il vient d’être re-publié par erreur lors de la préparation du nouveau site de French Girl in Seattle, qui sera lancé dans quelques semaines. Avec toutes mes excuses!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.