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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter


by directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West

“The Chicken Sisters!” Julia Child trills, tapping a sharp knife in rhythm while she introduces a row of upright raw birds as if they were contestants in a beauty pageant. “Miss Broiler, Miss Fryer, Miss Roaster, Miss Caponet, Miss Stewer and Old Madam Hen. But we are spotlighting Miss Roaster of the year!”

There’s a reason we chose this clip from Julia’s classic PBS series The French Chef to open our film: it is virtually impossible to watch this woman wax enthusiastic about poultry without having one’s mood brightened. Yes, we’d like our audiences to feel the same exhilaration our team felt again and again while researching, shooting and editing this film.

There’s also a reason we selected the Jimi Hendrix hit “(Let me stand next to your) Fire” to accompany an early scene of Julia rather aggressively trussing a chicken: the middle aged TV cook who won America’s heart in the 1960s was deceptively revolutionary. In just a few years, Julia Child upended the way we thought about food, television, even women.

We’ve worked hard to maintain a tone of revolutionary joy throughout the film. Editor Carla Gutierrez, who also edited our 2018 documentary RBG, wove together the original and archival material with an exuberance that stems from her own Julia Child-like nature. Cinematographer Claudia Raschke, also an RBG alum, has a special gift for bringing out the sparkle of beauty in our on-camera characters, particularly those in their 80s and 90s.

And for this film we added some fresh ingredients quite distinct from RBG. First and foremost: THE FOOD. Susan Spungen, cook and food stylist extraordinaire (who was also the stylist for 2009’s Julie & Julia), helped us select a suite of classic Julia recipes that would evoke emotions matched to specific scenes. For example, boeuf bourguignon represents that soul-deep connection to our parents and ancestors, and a pear-almond tart illustrates the sensual joy shared by Julia and her husband Paul as newlyweds.

Producer Holly Siegel went all in on putting together the right set for us to prepare the food, re-creating Julia’s Cambridge kitchen complete with a copper pot filled peg board and a genuine 1950’s Garland stove. That’s where Susan prepared the recipes and Claudia captured them on film. Meanwhile, in Paris, a specialty food cinematographer named Nanda Bredillard was filming those same recipes in extreme close up “macro” shooting using a Sony Venice camera, and with the 1,000 frames per second Phantom camera that allowed us to slow simmering beef or poaching pears waaaay down in the edit without losing clarity.

And one final touch—the brulée on the crème, if you will—is the luscious score by the Academy Award-winning narrative film composer Rachel Portman (Emma, Chocolat) that will transport you from Julia’s frenetic TV kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts to the vibrant markets and sidewalk cafes of Paris.

The nature of Julia’s subject matter is such that even talking or writing about the film makes us salivate! We hope—and expect—you’ll feel the same. Which brings us our warning. Yes this film, with its blow-your-mind food cinematography and rapturous music is best enjoyed on a big screen with a state of the art sound system. But please note that hunger pangs are likely to present themselves about 2 minutes in and they may not let up ‘til the last note of the closing credits. If you don’t eat before the show, make sure you have lunch or dinner reservations immediately after—at a restaurant VERY nearby!

Bon appétit!

Posted November 9, 2021

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