A Director is like a chef. He has to collaborate with various innovators to maintain his own unique vision. But, it is unfortunate that there are very few movies about kitchen or chefs. So, "Soul Kitchen" (2009) is a pleasant surprise. It is said to be the least ambitious project of German director Fatih Akin. His previous two movies -- "Head-On" (2004) and "The Edge of Heaven" (2007) -- are grim and philosophical movies. Whereas, this movie is a good-natured comedy. "Soul Kitchen" may be termed as the "least ambitious" but it is far more substantial than any of the other romantic comedies coming out of Hollywood.
Soul Kitchen is the name of restaurant, located in the dirty suburb of Hamburg, Germany. The eatery's frequent visitors are working-class men, who like filling and greasy food such as burgers, fishcakes, and schnitzels. The owner of the restaurant is Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos, who also co-wrote the script with Akin), a laid-back Greek-German. His romantic endeavor with Nadine (Pheline Roggan), is bumped, when she takes a newspaper job in Shanghai. She wants Zinos to join her, but he loves the restaurant and the internet relationship is not going well. Things start to go from bad to worse, when Zinos hires a hot-headed chef, Shayn (Birol Unel), who insists on upgrading the Soul Kitchen menu.
The junk-food loving clients rebels against the chef. Shayn enjoys saying people that "he's an artist, not a whore." The situation worsens, when Zinos' convicted brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu) is released on parole. Illias asks for a job in the restaurant to stay away from jail and to continue his crime pursuits. Then there is also a cutthroat real estate tycoon, an overzealous health inspector and tax collector and an artsy waitress, (Anna Bederke), who falls in love with the brother. All these characters and situations make the perfect ingredients for a madcap comedy.
Although the movie shows plenty of delicious-looking dishes, this isn't a foodie film. It mostly works as a portrait of certain Hamburg subculture -- its group of grungy artists -- where director Akin himself, is said to have, spent years working as a DJ and bartender. With "Soul Kitchen", the Turkish-German film-maker proves once again that he has a keen respect for the mysteries of human personality and an appreciation for flawed and oddball characters.Since music is a major interest for Akin, there is lots of funky great music, which actually energizes the viewing experience. The movie might be crammed with lots of incidents and characters, but Akin's comic energy carries the film.
Adam Bousdoukos as Zinos gives a delightful performance. There is a playfulness to his character that enables him to handle all his troubles. Moritz Bleibtreu ("Run Lola Run", "Das Experiment") gives a funny and charismatic performance as the terribly weak brother. The hard-drinking, literate bar-maid is played alluringly by Anna Bederke.
"Soul Kitchen" isn't a great feast like Akin's earlier films. Those flicks carefully catered courses of philosophy, cultural conflict and melodrama. This one is more or less like a sweet snack. A movie with a big-hearted sense of fun and a a vitality that's difficult to resist.
Soul Kitchen -- IMDb