TIFF Review: 'Impromptu'

(Canada, 10 min.)
Dir. Bruce Alcock, Writ. Ed Richie & Bruce Alcock
Programme: Short Cuts Canada Programme 5 (World Premiere)
Photo taken from the production, courtesy of the NFB.

“Why do you always have to make things so complicated?” Chuck wonders in a thought bubble that arises in Bruce Alcock’s jazzy short Impromptu. Egged that his wife, Sylvie, invited a baker’s dozen of co-workers to the nice he is in the midst of preparing (and planning to use as a first course for some dialogue of the “We need to talk” variety), Chuck takes a foodie’s approach to a hectic situation. He cooks up some joie de vivre by immersing himself in gourmet recipes that provide an escape from—and a solution to—his relationship woes. Alcock sets the action to the energetic tempo of Chopin’s Fanataisie Impromptu—Chuck’s cooking soundtrack of choice—and takes a simplified approach to this mouth-watering delight. Things are better when they aren’t complicated, as Chuck rightly notes, and Alcock’s ‘less is more’ approach is highly satisfying.

Impromptu is exciting and visually appealing even though Alcock leaves much of the canvas blank. Sketching the outlines of Chuck’s busy kitchen in wonderfully vibrant strokes, Impromptu invites the audience to colour inside the lines of with the palette of their imagination. One smells the aroma and tastes the food in Impromptu’s entertaining spread as the sound effects create mental images to fill in the skeletal sketches one sees onscreen. Impromptu, as all good foodie films do, excites the senses with its lively sizzles and chop-chop rhythm as Chuck sautés mushrooms, grates cheese, and minces garlic (much to the chagrin of a cantankerous party guest). The wine in Chuck’s glass is the only full-bodied colouring—always the sign of a good red—and the chef invites one to use the clatter of the kitchen chaos and be the sous-chef. It’s a new kind of fusion, and a fun one at that.

Alcock and his team provide a vibrant canvas on which festivalgoers can paint with their own brushes and participate in the film’s amusing celebration of the imagination. The film evokes sensation of the conviviality and good cheer conjured by the pairing of good food and good friends. Impromptu knows that the road between the heart and the belly as just as much a two-way street as the path of art and imagination. Impromptu is a toast to life. Santé!

Rating: ★★★½ (out of ★★★★★)

Short Cuts Canada Programme 5 screens:
Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 9:15 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Thursday, Sept. 12 at 2:30 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Some of the shorts will also be playing online 24 hours after their public screening, so please check http://www.youtube.com/tiff and see if Impromptu  is one them!

Also reviewed from Short Cuts Canada 5: The End of Pinky

***Impromptu also screens at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in the Canadian Showcase on Thursday, September 19 at 3:45 pm at the Museum of Nature.