Despite the international title, Patissiere Coin de Rue being in French, this is not a tale set in Paris, or even in France. Instead we are set up in Tokyo, Japan. Actually the title of the film is also the name of an elegant cafe where the finest cakes and pastries are made and enjoyed. For the record, the Japanese title is Yougashiten Koandoru which means the same as the French words. But let’s get on with the review.
Q: What’s wrong with my cake?
A: You work too slowly. Your cream was too runny. The syrup was uneven.
That’s not good news for the young woman, Natsume, who begged for a job at the elegant Patissiere Coin de Rue. She had come to Tokyo from Kagoshima following a boy from her hometown, who she considered to be much more than a friend and almost her fiancée. His name was Umi and he’d come to Tokyo earlier and landed a job at the Patissiere Coin de Rue because he wanted to become a better baker than she was. Only he left the Patisierre, likely because he wasn’t up to the task.
When Natsume, showed up and did not find Umi, she was at first disappointed. She was also in denial. He had written a letter to her when he left Kagoshima – ‘this is goodbye – I’m sure you’ll find another man‘, and so forth, a ‘Dear Joan’ letter if there ever was one, but she wasn’t ready to accept that he had left her.
At the Patissiere after getting the news that Umi no longer worked there, and no one knew where he could be found, Natsume asks for a job (they were looking for someone) and is given an opportunity. She’s to make a cake from scratch as her audition, a trial by fire as it were.
When finished, the patissiere staff all sampled it and no one jumped out of their shoes in excitement. It was a passable cake for a Christmas Sale – but not up to their exacting standards. So she was turned down. The proprietress sat her down and told that she should look for work elsewhere. She offered the young baker, a nice dessert to eat and to soften the after taste of being turned down.
After only one bite, Natsume instantly recognized its excellence. She then begged for a job as an apprentice. She’d start at the very bottom, in order to learn how to make such tasty desserts, if she just might be given the chance. And so, she was taken on as an apprentice, and because she had no where else to go, she was allowed to stay in the attic storeroom.
So begins Patissiere Coin de Rue. Natsume is played by Yu Aoi. She’s a headstrong girl. She’s defiant, and kind of insensitive about what is going on around her. At first you’ll resent her whining as well as her aggressiveness. In the early going, you will have to dig deep to find a reason to care about her. But she’s willing to learn.
As we have seen in so many of these kinds of stories or films, the young apprentice or student must always face a difficult time, and many obstacles in order to achieve success later on.
But it isn’t just Natsume’s story that comes into play. While we have Natsume, the apprentice, and main protagonist, she’s hardly all that matters. She’s working with Mariko, who is not only her senpai (senior) on the job, but her senior in experience as well. The two of them are in near constant conflict.
Then there’s Yuriko – she’s the head chef of the Patissiere as well as the co-owner. She is the one who gave Natsume the job. While the restaurant itself isn’t a character it faces a difficult future following an accident.
Speaking of difficult futures and a mysterious past, we have the author of the guide-book that Natsume carries around with her. His name is Tomura and he’s played marvelously by Yosuke Eguchi. When we first meet him, he is the one who tells Natusume what was wrong with her cake.
He told her because she asked. What he doesn’t tell her is that he is also a food critic. We find out that he was also a legendary patissier himself. He was considered the best in all of Tokyo. But he gave it up. He gives culinary seminars, writes reviews, and magazine articles, but he won’t step into a kitchen. We will wonder why this is so.
The four quadrants will all intersect and come together in and around the central core location of the Patissiere Coin de Rue. Natsume, Mariko, Yuriko, and the legend of the cake making world in Tokyo, Tomura.
There’s also a young European princess who comes into play albeit briefly. This isn’t a fairy tale, so you may be surprised that there is a princess.
While the story is kind of standard, the ending isn’t. You’ll get no clues from me on that score. But whether you like the ending of this film or not, the beautiful cakes and the artistry that goes into making them, will leave you wishing that you had fork at the ready. That in itself is a reason to laud the director, Yoshihiro Fukagawa, as the camera work and editing provide us with a plethora of beautiful shots where the lush desserts virtually cry out to be tasted.
As plentiful as the superbly composed shots, in contrast, the director chooses to NOT help us a long with musical clues at certain dramatic moments. You’ll find the silence refreshing. It’s not that there’s no music it all – because that’s not the case. Instead the music is like a lightly or finely seasoned dish. Instead of the music bashing you over the head as if you needed a pointer to figure something out on your own – it’s more like a hint of a special flavoring. Enough so you notice it around the periphery along with just weighty enough to make you think about. But the music never falls in to what we might equate with over-seasoning. Just superb.
I’ll rate the film at three point seven five – only because of the lightness. But trust me, this is film is ever so sweet – just like the lovely pasties, cakes, and desserts that we see on the screen.
While the trailer lacks English subtitles, you won’t need them in order to savor the beautiful images from this film. Enjoy.
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