PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Film

Tribeca Film Festival 2011: 'Carol Channing' and 'A Matter of Taste'

At Tribeca, Carol Channing: Larger Than Life and A Matter of Taste document the crafting of outsized personalities.

Carol Channing: Larger Than Life

Director: Dori Berinstein
Cast: Carol Channing, Kaye Ballard, Marge Champion, Phyllis Diller, Loni Anderson, Bob Mackie
Rated: NR
Studio: Dramatic Forces
Year: 2011
US date: 2011-04-29 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Website
Trailer

A Matter of Taste

Director: Sally Rowe
Cast: Paul Liebrandt, Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal, Grant Achatz, Eric Rupert, Frank Bruni
Rated: NR
Studio: Rowe Road Productions
Year: 2011
US date: 2011-04-29 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Website
Trailer

After viewing Dori Berinstein’s gaga documentary, Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, it’s hard to imagine that the world is not a better place because the 90-year-old Broadway legend is in it. With her wide mouth and wing-like eyelashes, rough sandpaper voice and a killer knack for the gag, she's a star in every sense of the word.

Born to Christian Science parents and raised in San Francisco, Channing recalls catching the performing bug early. She was delivering copies of the Christian Science Monitor backstage in a theater, only to become transfixed. “The safest place in the world to be,” she says, “is center stage.” She's gone on to find this safety in a variety of places. The clips of her numerous talk show appearances throughout the years shows both her quick wit and fearlessness (her Bennington education visible underneath the ditzy blonde routine).

One interviewee calls Channing an old-time vaudevillian, both on stage and off. Others emphasize her kindness and grace, demonstrated in conversations between Channing and her husband Harry Kullijian (the two were childhood sweethearts who reunited over half-a-century later in life) or in scenes where she takes her entire chorus from a 1994 revival production of her signature musical, Hello Dolly!, out to a movie: she insists on serving each of them individually from behind the concession stand.

As easy as it is to be charmed by Channing (during a post-screening Q&A, Berinstein revealed she was friends with her subject prior to making the film), this perspective gives the documentary the feel of a tribute reel. Unlike her excellent documentary, Show Business: The Road to Broadway (2007), this film lacks much critical distance. Instead, it provides plentiful anecdotes about Hello, Dolly!'s various productions, told by friends and colleagues, testifying to Channing's superstardom. It’s possible that Carol Channing’s celebratory tone has something to do with her unique status as Broadway’s clown princess. “Nobody ever says, 'Get Me a Carol Channing type,'” points out designer Bob Mackie, “There aren’t any.”

Another documentary at Tribeca looks at another sort of star. Paul Liebrandt is as dedicated to his craft as Channing, but shows precious little regard for niceties. The subject of Sally Rowe’s perceptive and entertaining extreme-foodie documentary, A Matter of Taste, Liebrandt's a British wunderkind with floppy black hair and a Napoleonic sense of his own greatness. He reports that he works 18-24-hour days, seven days a week, and admonishes one of his chefs for coming in tired after a late night with a date, arguing that girlfriends come and go, but their work in the kitchen has meaning. “It’s a monk’s game,” he says. That said, Liebrandt has a steady girlfriend who apparently puts up with the demands of his life.

Rowe looks back briefly at the start of that life, when Liebrandt was something of a wunderkind on the New York dining scene: in 2000, at age 24, the film reports, he became the youngest chef to receive a three-star review from the New York Times for his work at Atlas. In December 2001, the persnickety Liebrandt has left Atlas over menu disagreements. The film finds him at a village bistro called Papillon where his boundary-pushing molecular gastronomy is an extremely odd fit, as city residents after 9/11 were craving more familiar comfort mood. Liebrandt swam against the tide, conjuring new wave combinations like eel and chocolate or foamed calf’s brains and foie gras. His inventiveness won him publicity, but the restaurant struggled, and a few months later, Rowe finds him slinging burgers and fries, giving Eeyore eyes to the camera like any good, aggrieved, ahead-of-his-time artiste.

The film briefly tracks Liebrandt’s stint at Gilt, where he landed after some years in the culinary consulting business (during which time he worked for a gourmet marshmallow company). Expected management difficulties follow, as well as the dreaded two-star Times review, this time from Frank Bruni, whom Liebrandt brushes off as too comfort-food-obsessed to get what he’s on about. Rowe smartly uses that grievance to set up Bruni -- interviewed here along with chefs like Thomas Keller -- as Liebrandt’s nemesis for his next great challenge: the 2009 opening of adventurous downtown eatery Corton.

The latter third of A Matter of Taste presents Liebrandt as slightly older and more media-savvy, backed by restaurateur Drew Nieporent (Nobu). He alternately pumps up and shreds his kitchen staff, and calls his cooking “the culinary equivalent of the special forces.” The spectacle makes for an unfortunate personal transformation but an engrossing film. Although it indulges Liebrandt’s Gordon-Ramsey-like ranting (some more examinations of his outer-limits dishes would have been welcome), the build-up to the all-important Bruni review is aptly tense, showing the spy-like maneuvers the critic goes through to avoid his reservations being noticed ahead of time. Rowe translates the passion of the true believer to craft her own remarkable invention.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.