“Julia,” a biography of the celebrated cook Julia Child, and “Belfast,” set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, play at the M.V. Film Center on Friday, Nov. 26, for Thanksgiving weekend.
Julie Cohen and Betsy West directed the biographical tribute, “Julia.” “How you connect with each other is food,” Julia says. The film offers a biographical background on Julia Child.
The eldest of three children, and growing to 6 feet 3 inches tall, she was born in Pasadena, Calif., in 1912 into a wealthy family. She went to Smith College in an era when women were considered at most housewives. It was not the case for Julia.
Her life before she became cook extraordinaire makes an interesting chapter that “Julia” doesn’t describe in much detail. During World War II, she landed in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), working for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), precursor to the CIA, as a top-secret researcher. Child met her husband, Paul Cushing Child, there in 1943, and they moved to Kunming, China, where he, a gourmet, introduced her to fine cuisine. Julia moved to Paris with him when he joined the Foreign Service. While there, she attended the celebrated Cordon Bleu cooking school, and was the only woman in her class.
In Rouen at the gourmet restaurant La Couronne, Julia had her first “perfect” meal, topped by filet of sole meunière. “I found my way to the source,” she said. “I never turned back.” She became friends with cookbook authors Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, collaborating with them on her first cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” In the meantime, the Childs moved to Cambridge. Published in English with Alfred A. Knopf, the cookbook became a bestseller, with 2.5 million copies sold. Boston’s public television station put on Julia’s successful cooking show, which ran for 10 years and won Emmy and Peabody awards
Julia explained the 1950s menu as canned soup as sauce, plenty of Spam, and Jello. Instead, she introduced a new kind of food by preparing an omelet on her PBS TV show, then Boeuf Bourguignon. She charmed audiences by not hiding her mistakes.
Although not a feminist, her success helped make her important to the women’s movement. She has been described as one of the most distinctive personalities TV has ever produced, and she was responsible for the popularity of cookbooks and TV chefs. “Julia” provides these facts and more.
Kenneth Branagh is the screenwriter and director of “Belfast,” about the Troubles in Northern Ireland that began in1969. It is a fictionalized story in black-and-white, based on Branagh’s childhood, about 11-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill). Buddy’s Protestant family faces the violence that has erupted among radical, anti-Catholic Protestants. His working-class father Pa (Jamie Dornan) works in England as a joiner, or cabinetmaker, home every two weeks. His mother Ma (Caitriona Balfe) takes care of the children in the absence of their father. His grandmother Granny (Judi Dench) and grandfather Pops (Ciarén Hinds) live nearby and play a significant role in the family’s life.
“Belfast” starts out with a violent demonstration against Catholics by Northern Ireland’s radical Protestants. As seen through the eyes of Buddy, the film sets up the dangers of this boy’s world that he doesn’t understand. In one vivid scene early on, Buddy plays a pretend warrior with an ashcan lid as a shield. When the violence begins, Ma grabs Buddy and takes the ashcan lid for protection against the rocks and other objects thrown at them.
Because he’s sympathetic to his Catholic neighbors, Pa is subjected to threats from the Protestant protesters. So begins another theme of “Belfast,” the conflict between Pa’s desire to move away, and the resistance of Ma to leaving Belfast. Belfast native Van Morrison provides the music for this warmhearted tale.
Information and tickets for “Julia” and “Belfast” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.