Friday, July 23, 2010

Foodie Film Review: Salt

It was with great excitement that I learned Hollywood had signed on to make a silver screen version of Mark Kulansky's moving history of the world's most common seasoning: Salt, and with Angelina Jolie in the starring role no less.

Kurlansky is one of the nation's foremost food historians, and Salt was his masterpiece. The work traces the history of salt from ancient times to the present and touches on not only its culinary importance but also its central role in economics, commerce, politics and culture.

I was interested to see how Hollywood would interpret a masterwork of such breadth, and I have to say, while the film is creative, it may leave those of us who are familiar with the original work a bit disappointed as it is not exactly faithful to the book. Since salt was the lead character of Kurlansky's work, it is only fitting that mega-starlet Jolie should play the role in the film. (She is certainly saltier than Tom Cruise!). The metaphor gets stretched at times, but the point director Phillip Noyce and writers Kurt Wimmer and Brian Helgeland seem to be making is that salt was not only crucial to commerce and culture, as so thoroughly documented by Kurlansky, but also played an important role in international intrigue.

I have to admit that beyond that, this interpretation of Kurlansky is a bit confounding. While I would expect Hollywood to take some license with any original work, I was surprised at the complete lack of concentration on the culinary aspects of salt. Certainly, the widely loved mineral has a political influence, but it's mostly a food, and I'm not sure where all those fighting scenes came from. I guess as a fan of the book, I was a bit disappointed, but one positive is that even people who haven't read Kurlansky's work will be able to enjoy the film.

This film just hollers for a sequel, which I assume will be based on Kurlansky's other masterwork, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. I just hope the writers can make that film a bit more faithful to the original.


Lazarus Lupin said...

Silly question: as a foodie have you seen tampopo?

Lazarus lupin
art and review

sku said...

Sure, one of the great, classic food films.