Short Order, a movie about munching and mating, tracks the trials of Fifi (Emma de Caunes), a promising chef whose quarter-life crisis has relegated her to a short-order restaurant in Paris’ underbelly, where she pan-fries lobster and ponders love. Owner Paulo (Rade Serbedzija) has concerns of his own—namely, how to catch the delinquent diner who’s been skipping out on checks all over the world, and how to enact a unique recipe for revenge: osso buco flavored with the pilferer’s fingers.
Irish writer/director Anthony Byrne deserves credit for carrying the familiar food-sex metaphor into unfamiliar terrain: Having declared that his body would make a fine meal, Paulo straps garnish onto his tub-like frame, pours wine on his head, chomps down on an apple, and clambers into an oven (as though competing in a suicide-off with Sylvia Plath). Yet in his efforts to surprise, Byrne has woven a tapestry of bafflingly bawdy non-sequiturs that recall the mystery, if not the magic, of The Silence Before Bach. Even as we strain to understand the international cast’s more-or-less French accents, we hop from Fifi’s Paris to New York, where a hot dog man we’ve never met confirms that his products resemble penises. A pizza maker, equally unknown, pops in to explain the sexuality of dough. And an omelette master declares, squirm-inducingly, “The come of an egg is like the come of a man.” Indeed, Short Order harbors a taste, as it were, for sexual innuendo—but perhaps one Muscovite minx who slinks out of the night (Tatiana Ouliankina) has surpassed innuendo when she announces to a nearby French filly (Cosma Shiva Hagen), “You made my nipples go hot.” And how exactly do nipples go hot? It doesn’t sound very pleasant. But maybe she said “hard.” Either way, in this film, accents—along with organizing concepts—are a bit too hard (or hot?) to decode.