Starring: Masoto Sakai, Kosuke Toyohara, Kengo Kora
Director: Shûichi Okita
Running Time: 125 mins
The Chef Of The South Pole is a Japanese film about a man with a passion for cooking who is stationed in an extremely remote research base in Antarctica with seven other men, and after spending over a year in the base, he and his colleagues suffer a series of crises that worsens when the food supply decreases.
This is a rather strange film, and although it’s a likable and quirky watch throughout, with some fun jokes and characters in the middle of a bizarre environment, it is a movie that somewhat overstays its welcome, dragging on a little too much over the course of a plus-two hour runtime that just doesn’t feel particularly earned, especially considering the film’s quirky brand of comedy.
We’ll get into that downfall in a bit, but I have to start off with the fact that, if you like dry, quirky humour, then this is the film for you. Set in an extremely isolated base in the middle of Antarctica, with eight somewhat mismatched men living together, the film offers up ample opportunity for a combination of mishaps and entertaining comedic tension, something that comes through best in the leads’ rather deadpan performances.
I can’t say that the performances are exceptional, and when it comes to giving a bit more insight into the characters themselves, the actors don’t quite manage to bring the intended drama or depth across, but as far as the film’s main intention goes, that is being a bizarrely smiley and charmingly quirky comedy, the performances are all just right, and make for a good few laughs throughout.
In fact, the whole of the first half is a fantastic laugh. While it’s not intended to be a laugh-a-minute riot, the film’s deliberately slow pacing and lack of dialogue creates a good degree of expectation and comedic tension between each major joke, something that makes the payoff that little bit more satisfying, all the while playing into the hands of that quirky atmosphere.
That’s not to say there are few jokes here. Depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll find varying degrees of enjoyment from The Chef Of The South Pole. In that first half, there’s the main quirkiness that’s just fun to watch unfold, but there are a whole heap of mini-gags within, which aren’t overtly expressed in a way that most comedies would try to do, but do make for a satisfying giggle when you see them.
With all that said, and as much as I enjoyed the film’s quirky, deadpan vibe, it all goes on just a bit too long. Above all, the slow pacing that allows for the comedic tension to work so well in the first half, is by far the biggest contributor to what eventually becomes a rather tiresome watch, still trying to utilise the same slow, deadpan style when you’ve already grown a little weary.
What’s more is that the plot, while interesting, unique and fairly entertaining, doesn’t quite have the depth or intrigue to really take over when the comedy doesn’t stand up so well. It works fine towards the conclusion, and as we see the dynamic of the small community in the research base change rather dramatically as a result of some farcical circumstances, it’s not a tedious watch, but there isn’t really enough to change the overall feel of the movie, with its main impression still being that of the quirky comedy that it was in the opening act.
As a result, I had fun with The Chef Of The South Pole, but it’s not a film that thoroughly enamoured me from start to finish. While immensely likable and delightfully quirky at first, the movie doesn’t do enough to keep itself fresh throughout its rather overlong runtime, and furthered by slow pacing that works well at first, but soon becomes a pitfall in itself, it’s not a film that will keep you as hugely entertained as it manages early on, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6 overall.