Thursday, December 25, 2008

Review of Ratatouille

1. The movie Ratatouille is an allegory for the Hispanic underclass at work in the back of every kitchen. "Not everybody can become a great chef, but a great chef can come from everywhere." This conclusion delivered at the movie's end reveals Ratatouille to be, despite its hexagonal setting, just another movie built around the American dream -- albeit one which promises in addition to social mobility the marriage of that mobility with one's original class/group affiliation (Remy becomes a great chef, and he does it all without losing touch with the rat clan).

The function of the classic American dream narrative was to mystify the unjust disposition of classes through sprinkling the magic dust of upward class mobility over the class-system. With a kind of perverse Rawlsian logic, the system as a whole was rendered just since anyone could become top dog, if only he or she tried hard enough, swept enough chimneys, or shined enough shoes. (No wonder the mass take-over of the kitchen by rats at one point in the film inspires such total revulsion in everyone who sees it: it portends a revolutionary reversal beyond all decency.) The particular justifies the whole, here as everywhere, and ultimately Remy's front-kitchen prominence, culinary self-development, and successful trajectory only expiate the concomitant extermination of his back-alley brethren.

If they ever do a remake of Ratatouille, I think they should set it in Wilhelmine/Weimar Germany and call it Rathenau after the German-Jewish industrialist Walter Rathenau who pulled the strings of Germany's war economy until he was assassinated by anti-Semites in 1922.

2. Whenever Disney wants to tell us that a character is pretty and/or good, they give that person these big, wet doe-eyes with lots of nictitation, in this case: Colette. Why is that? Is it a kind of physiognomic legibility that just works? Are big eyes supposed to be a sign of conscientiousness or empathy maybe? What's the deal here? (And how about the opposite -- squinty eyes? Are they bad because they're always trying to appraise and size things up -- to "eyeball" them in the parlance of petty drug dealers? Is this why David Paterson looks so sinister? And why is that man trying to take away my soda?)

3. Colette's comment about the dish ratatouille, "But that's peasant food!" is the most French moment in the film. I love it.

4. Someone should do a study of movies about rats. There sure have been a lot of them.

5. Ratatouille: 5/5 stars.


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