All You Can Eat Buddha, A Movie Review

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  • Spoiler Alert

The 2018 Victoria Film Festival is in full swing and every year, there’s at least one foodie themed piece of cinema for me to look at. This year’s offering is a very curiously named, All You Can Eat, Buddha. Writer / Director Ian Lagarde makes his feature-length debut with this work. According to actor Silvio Arriola who plays Valentino, the manager of the Cuban resort El Palacio — this story was conceived when this filmmaker was vacationing in Mexico, observing life around the resort he was at and having a particular Vedic text on hand to read.

The significance of what food represents to Mike (played to great stoic effect by Ludovic Berthillot) is not what this film is about. This protagonist is often juxtaposed to the backdrop of the sea, giving him a godlike presence, and suggesting he is on a spiritual retreat. The few picturesque moments of exquisite buffets are used to a lesser effect. To understand what both mean requires a second and third helping — a viewing, that is.

Interestingly, there are no teachings that this protagonist offers and nor is there any love in his heart. Amusingly and very often, we hear him say, “I want to be left alone.”

He stays at this resort and while he remains as others leave, he becomes master of this domain. As he goes about his routine, he is not concerned about the fun activities that go on. He could join, but why? He befriends a yoga teacher, and after an act of kindness to a beached octopus, his outlook wavers. As other guests come and go, there are a few who stare in awe at Mike’s veracity at the dinner table. I can easily imagine the words forming in these people’s minds: “He’s a glutton!” and “What a pig!” Later in the film, he’s well-liked and an object of desire.

Interestingly the cephalopod has her own agenda. She tries to coax him to the sea and does so more than once throughout the film. In the second act, this story is very dreamlike, very surreal. It’s like a comic book of French design coming to life. I find the lighting effects used to highlight Mike’s various state of mind to be a homage to 70’s psychedelia. The hurricane set to storm the island is definitely symbolic of changes not only to the country but also each soul stranded here. As this force of nature hits, everything and everyone left at this resort are living in shambles. As the only guest, just why he decides to stay is never explained.

I can figure out why he does, but to say too much will give away this film’s greatest secret, and perhaps explain why Buddha is part of this film’s title. Anyone who knows this belief system has a heads up in where this film is going. Although Lagarde made a film that’s not easy to digest (pardoning the pun), his compelling narrative can be read at different levels. Just what that means is left to the viewer to interpret. For me, it’s about Mike’s final journey.

3½ Blokes out of 5

Q&A with Silvio Arriola

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