Films for Foodies #4–Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers

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Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers

USA, 1980

Directed by Les Blank

Available to stream on HuluPlus and Vimeo

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Les Blank was unquestionably one of the greatest documentarians of all time. He added such a unique flavor to his stories that you could turn on one of his movies and know within moments whose movie it was. Blank was a director who valued the intricacies of his subject more than the technical details. Many of his movies have jumpy camera moves, odd composition, and difficult to read titles. No matter. He knows where to point the camera so that our eyes stay glued to the screen.

Blank had a tendency to choose documentary subjects that are either so obscure we wonder how anybody could have thought of it, or so seemingly mundane that we are amazed it could be made into a lively, interesting story. In Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers, he went with the latter. Sure people love garlic, but it’s such a common culinary staple that we think nothing of it.

Yet there’s a lot more to this food than we think. It has a rich history and an even more obsessed fan base than my previously reviewed Sriracha. And the doc’s images make it obvious why. It’s filled with fun, lip-smacking montages that will have you running to the kitchen to cook. I did.

But the most important choice a documentarian has is who to film. People are the most interesting subjects, and this movie proves it. Just take a look at some of the credits: “Garlic Queen”, “Youth Saved from Dysentery”, “Anti-Vampire Writer”, and “Organic Farmer with Ph.D. in Shakespeare”  And of course my personal favorite, “Anzonini del Puerto, Andalusian Gypsy/Butcher of Fighting Bulls.” This a man who will probably kill you if you insult garlic. I have no idea how Les Blank found him, but he’s perfect.

What makes this doc work is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously–it knows it’s a movie about “the stinking rose.” It’s filled with genuinely human comedy and some real laugh out loud moments. Here’s one of them–the Garlic Song. Check it out, then check out the whole movie below.

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