In the middle of the food renaissance, where ideas of trends, dieting, and nutritional movements have gone on to shape our collective opinion of everything we chew on, there’s one food group that has since been left behind—and that’s good ole fashioned steak. Yes, we still love it, but it seems with each bite we take, our guilty conscience seems to take a heavy blow. What we don’t realize is that farmers, butchers, and chefs across the globe have been steadfastly working to fix that skewed mentality, and Franck Ribière’s documentary Steak (R)evolution is there to show us how and why. And then shows again. And again.
The Frenchman’s first doc spans the globe—everywhere between our home turf of America to the beautiful seaside towns of Italy to the bustling metropolis of Tokyo—searching for one simple thing: the world’s best steak. Ribière and his crew of meat fanatics explore every factor that goes into the juicy slice of meat to see what methods truly do produce something simply excelente. Through extensive conversations with the world’s leaders on the matter, we become to understand that even the most miniscule of treatment of cattle can have a huge a effect on flavor—to the point where some breeders even leave Mozart playing all day and night to give their cows peace of mind.
What is first and foremost the most impactful aspect of Steak (R)evolution’s message is not that its trying to convince the general public to drop their salads to pursue the lifestyle of a carnivorous fiend. Instead, it proves that, just like a head of lettuce, a steak can provide a healthy meal with the proper dose of TLC—in moderation, of course. Grass-fed versus grain-fed, free-range versus industrial-production are all things we’ve been berated with over the years as we grow ever more aware of the food we eat, but now we get a full account of the difference in product.
By guiding us through the step-by-step process of what is to create a perfect steak, is in turn guiding us through our own means of food culture. What’s fascinating are the people behind this agricultural system who spend countless hours determining what is the best way—not just in terms of taste, but health and environment—to create the most unforgettable meal. We get to see everything from small town farmers to big-daddy restaurateurs, all who are greatly dedicated the practice and art of killing cows.
Don’t be fooled—this isn’t the next Food Inc. nor is it a slew of food porn a la any of Anthony Bourdain’s specials. Yes, we get to see some of the most succulent pieces of meat on the planet, but what’s really at the core are the fundamentals behind it. And these fundamentals are pushed hard, and I mean really hard.
Where Steak (R)evolution flounders is in its redundancy. While we are seeing a slew of breeding, feeding, and eating techniques from various cultures on display, many of them are repeated so often you wonder if anyone’s actually doing something special. Of course that’s ridiculous, because they absolutely are achieving something not only special, but also imperative to our future as meat eaters, but Ribière fails to give an engaging structure. While he slowly leads us to the coveted Number 1 spot, it’s almost easy to forget there’s even a countdown at hand.
Another misstep lies in Ribières own camera work, which is often shaky, unfocused, and lacks a cinematic quality that could cause an absorbing experience and in a more visceral way. The beautiful cuts of meat do have shining moments—mainly due to some pretty beautiful kitchens—but the vignettes of certain interviews, as well, as some of the dinners where we get to see all this glorious meat getting devoured, is often left to shaky handheld and blurry vision.
This leads to the notion of perspective, or perhaps a lack of it. While Ribière rightfully gives the floor to the people creating and sustaining this meat culture, he is the one judging which steak is exactly the best, so there should be some overt standpoint on the matter. When he eventually does crown the winner, he doesn’t examine how that particular breeder, farmer, and chef’s process all coalesce into a consensus about what the path of our meat industry is or ought to be. In the end we are left with an abundance of information, which is widely necessary, but without a string to tie it all together we are left to grapple with the leftovers.
You can catch STEAK (R)EVOLUTION at The Nuart Theatre now!