A fine foodie German comedy. Yes, really
Soul Kitchen is the latest from Fatih Akin, the Turkish German director whose most recent films Head-On and Edge of Heaven won acclaim for their complex culture-clash dramas.
But though this is still largely set among migrants in Akin's native Hamburg, it's mostly a laugh-a-minute ensemble comedy. Even the native Germans in it are funny - though mostly as punchlines.
It's also got a culinary theme around the edges, while coming across as something of a grungy love letter to the city and its nightlife.
Not that leading character, Soul Kitchen warehouse cafe owner Zinos Kazantsakis (co-writer Bousdoukos, pictured) spends too much time laughing.
That his automatic dishwasher - like him, made in Greece - has gone traditional on the restaurant's crockery is just the start of his problems.
His rich German girlfriend is shifting to Shanghai for work. His jailed brother Illias wants to pretend to work for him while on day release. The local inland revenue department has taken the cafe stereo as a downpayment on overdue taxes. The health department is demanding a new stainless steel kitchen. His new high-maintenance chef has chased the schnitzel-chomping clientele away with his haute cuisine. Oh, and he's put his back out ...
So Zinos has his work cut out holding on to his dream restaurant.
How things fall into place - only to quickly fall apart again - makes for unpredictable fun, though a slapstick funeral scene and one showing the alarming results of spiking that night's special with Honduran tree bark both lower the tone momentarily to dumb farce.
Mostly though, Soul Kitchen works its comedic charms at pace, helped by a particularly groovy soundtrack.
Fortunately, it's not too frantic to give its main cast enough breathing space to let their characters leave a lasting impression, while the film finds its heart in the fraught and funny relationship of the brothers Kazantsakis.
Cast: Adam Bousdoukos, Moritz Bleibtreu, Birol Unel, Anna Bederke
Director: Fatih Akin
Rating: M (sex scenes and offensive language)
Running time: 99 mins