For me, a documentary should inform, inspire, teach if possible but, most of all, it must grab your attention. It needs an almost selfish view on its subject matter.
For those of you who don’t know who Gualtiero Machesi was, he is considered by many to be the founder of modern Italian cuisine, a three-star Michelin chef who returned his stars, outraged at the voting system.
He has won countless awards and accolades, has a number of restaurants around the world and an academy and has even designed a burger for McDonald’s.
Did I learn all of this from The Great Italian documentary? No? Some of it, but definitely not all. Despite a run time of an hour and 20 minutes, The Great Italian feels devoid of any substance, some of you may even want to make a quip about the style of cooking on show (all tweezers and small portions) and the documentary, I however, shall resist.
Marchesi had a love of classic music and art, so director Maurizio Gigola focuses on that, a lot. If you’re a fan of classical music, you may like the documentary, a lot, as at times it felt like a documentary about that rather than cuisine.
It’s some time before anything resembling food passes in front of our eyes and everything that does is from other chefs, who I think have been trained or worked under Marchesi at various points, it’s not all that clear.
Speaking of clear, the subtitles are in English, useful when you don’t speak Italian or French, but the on screen captions are not. Most of them you can work out, but some leave you shrugging your shoulders.
Marchesi sadly passed away in December 2017, though he did get to see the documentary. Something tells me he liked it. It’s very arty in its approach, very clean, almost clinical in its camera work, but all this just adds to the empty feeling you get when it ends. I learned more online than I did from the documentary, and that doesn’t feel right.