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“Soul Kitchen,” Reviewed

“Soul Kitchen,” Reviewed (photo)

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What at first appears to be simple good-naturedness pervading Fatih Akin’s “Soul Kitchen” starts to seem, as the film rolls on, like something crazier and more generous. The closest I can come to describing it is as a near-spiritual embrace of human failings, their inevitability and the fact that most of us still want to live together in great, messy communities anyway.

For instance: At one point, a character who’s responsible for essentially ruining the life of our hero, genial Greek-German slacker Zinos Kazantsakis (Adam Bousdoukos), runs into Zinos’ brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu, of “Run, Lola, Run”) in jail, where Illias has been serving out a sentence for burglary. Instead of punching the guy, which seems, in context, not undeserved, Illias gives him a wink in greeting, and he responds by earnestly asking Illias to tell his brother hello. Illias says he will.

Such is life. And that sloppy, joyful love of it, with all its swings of fortune, makes “Soul Kitchen” an exuberant trifle. Akin’s international breakout “Head-On” and his expansive, imperfect follow-up “The Edge of Heaven” were weighty endeavors. “Soul Kitchen” is not. It’s bohemian chaos piled into a sitcom comedy foundation, though it includes many of Akin’s favorite thematic elements of immigrant communities, societal fringes and border crossings.

08192010_soulkitchen.jpgAt the outset, Zinos is running a barely functional restaurant in Hamburg called Soul Kitchen, despite displaying no natural gifts as a restauranteur. He fries up frozen fish fillets and french fries for an undemanding crowd of blue collar regulars in a spacious building he bought on the street and restored — as he points out to a would-be buyer, he “found the furniture in the streets” himself.

Things are going well enough, though he’s struggling with a bad back and his girlfriend Nadine (Pheline Roggan) is about to leave for a job in Shanghai — they make plans to video chat regularly over Skype.

The plot, such as it is — Zinos’ life seems like one giant shaggy dog story, any section of which could make for an entertaining feature — is set in motion by Nadine’s departure and the arrival of three men. Shayn (“Head-On”‘s Birol Ünel) is a talented, surly chef that Zinos hires after seeing him get fired from a higher-end restaurant after refusing to serve a customer hot gazpacho, whose cuisine, after initial resistance, starts pulling in a new kind of crowd. Neumann (Wotan Wilke Möhring) is an old classmate of Zinos’, a shady real estate agent eyeing the land the restaurant’s on. And Illias returns, still struggling of a gambling problem, in search of a fake job so that he won’t have to spend all his time in jail.

And then there’s the sea captain living in the back of the restaurant; Lucia (Anna Bederke) the arty waitress on who Illias develops a crush; bartender Lutz (Lukas Gregorowicz), whose band starts using the restaurant as a rehearsal space; and a whole array of other characters who come and go as Zinos becomes the accidental proprietor of Hamburg’s hippest eatery and event space.

08192010_soulkitchen3.jpgThe Hamburg of “Soul Kitchen” is a grey, grimy-looking but vibrant place of looming construction cranes, squats, department stores turned nightclubs and shiny condos perched next to old neighborhoods. Soul Kitchen itself is a cavernous raw space treading the line between edgy and legitimately dilapidated, through which the camera wanders to take in the almost uncontainable goings-on, sometimes in wide-angle, all the better to see everything.

It’s all reminiscent, at times, of parts of Brooklyn (the restaurant’s even located in an area called Wilhelmsburg), though while you could argue that “Soul Kitchen” is a saga of gentrification, Zinos is anything but a hipster. Ragged, bewildered and lacking all calculation, he’s just along for the ride — and therein lies his, and the film’s, unkempt charm.

“Soul Kitchen” opens in NY on August 20th.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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