Monday, March 24, 2008 | 2 a.m.
ON THE AIR
What: “Monet’s Palate: A Gastronomic View from the Gardens of Giverny”
When: 9 p.m. Thursday, KLVX Channel 10
Aileen Bordman became an independent filmmaker, got access to the permanent Monet collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art and landed Meryl Streep to narrate the introduction to her first documentary.
Pretty sweet, yes.
But the trail to “Monet’s Palate: A Gastronomic View from the Gardens of Giverny,” which premieres Thursday on PBS in Las Vegas, really began several years ago when Bordman was sitting in Monet’s dining room in Giverny and listening to her mother, a longtime volunteer at the home and museum in Normandy, talk about the artist’s passion for food.
That was the spark that had the younger Bordman piecing together plans for a documentary/cooking show that explored Monet’s exquisite taste in dining.
“Monet’s Palate” is no ordinary cooking show, however.
“You have wonderful cooking shows. You have wonderful documentaries. I decided to entwine the two,” says Bordman, 50, who financed the project herself to maintain creative control because not everyone, she says, was grasping the concept of a cooking show that was also an art documentary.
But that pairing is what really makes the film.
Between sunlit views of the artist’s home, the flowers bouncing in the breeze and the Japanese bridge that we’ve all come to know so well from Monet’s paintings, we’re taken to the markets and into the commercial kitchens where scallops, mussels and pastries are prepared in honor of the Impressionist, who so loved his elaborate meals.
The film also mixes in tidbits of the Viking history in Normandy, explores the region’s agricultural bounty and slips in a trip to the Savoy in London, where Monet stayed, dined and worked. (It even includes an interview with Las Vegas casino owner and art collector Steve Wynn.)
A collection of French and English chefs whip up some of Monet’s favorite foods and dishes while Joachim Pissarro, art historian and curator of the department of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, links Monet’s appetite to his art.
There is ample footage of the rich, colorful gardens surrounding the home in Giverny where the artist lived from 1883 until he died in 1926. The gardens that he created there were a source for some of his most famous works.
But according to Pissarro, Monet wasn’t the type to work through — or hurry — his lunches.
“He really did not take any shortcuts; he went out of his way to produce the most elaborate and most wonderful, exquisite meals,” Pissarro says in the 57-minute video. “You can draw a parallel with art at that level in that there is definitely the same kind of sensibility there.”
Author Anne Willan, founder of La Varenne cooking school in France, links between the colors of the food he ate and pictures he painted, saying at one point while mixing a pot of mussels, “These colors to me are very much the north sea, the clouds ... Monet’s paintings of that coast, black and grey, misty.”
Just as many roads lead to Las Vegas, so too did Bordman’s. Mixed within the intimate and reflective discourse on Monet by chefs Alice Waters and Daniel Boulud, we find Wynn pontificating on the universal appeal of the “wonderful sensibilities of impressionist paintings,” reminiscing about standing on the bridge in the gardens with friends and lamenting that he was “born too late” to have lunch or dinner with the artist.
Bordman contacted Wynn after reading an article about his art collection. This was before she learned that she’d have access to the Met and needed images of original Monets for the film.
At the time, Bordman says, “I just thought of him as a collector, I had no idea of the depth and passion. He’s just so eloquent and so learned about his passion for art.”