And you’ve been thinking well-hung was a compliment. Turns out it’s the key to culinary perfection for steak. Because the more rapidly an animal gets draped upside down after being slaughtered, the more succulent the taste. So says Steak: (R)evolution, the doc from first-time French filmmaker Franck Ribière, himself from a cattle (the Charolais) raising family and in this film traveling the world to find the perfect steak.
Even at its overlong over two hours, Steak only gets occasionally repetitive: Thanks is due to the shaggy, red-haired bovine Highland grazers and their cute bottle-bodied Japanese counterparts with the spindly legs. By now we’re used to watching food creation from scratch, though Steak doesn’t take up the long-term effects of a solely protein-based diet, or living with and then killing your beasts. One fond owner announces that his favorite cow, Florence, had a good death and that he enjoyed eating nearly all her body parts, a bit reminiscent of the hippie era’s ideas about the efficiency of Native Americans.
Other breeders and farmers play Mozart or give massages (especially before death to relax animal muscles and create tenderness.) The doc is structured on a ranking of steaks, moving from worst to best of nine, including France, Brooklyn, and various European countries. (The French admit some humiliation when the Spanish steak proves superior.) In the mix, three women are also profiled: Scottish breeder Alison Tuke; a 22-year-old French cattle rancher, Berenice Walton; and Jody Storch, the doyenne of Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn. Yet the doc’s overwhelming star is a big old steer who toys with his master.
If your vegan stomach and ethics do flip-flops at this spectacle, pull back for the cultural comparisons. For instance, the Japanese display the fat in a store window dressing, but in France they hide it.
Directed and co-written by Franck Ribière
Opens July 17 at IFC Center
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 14, 2015