05 Nov 2018

Spaghetti food photography: a story in the movies

Spaghetti is perhaps the most represented form of pasta in Italian and international cinema. From a movie photography point of view, it is also perhaps the most complicated type of pasta to reproduce as beautiful and appetizing on screen.

For us, as Italian, even though we are working in Austria, it is impossible not to notice it, as always when a piece of your world is staged on the big screen. And if you, in addition, are also part of the industry it is impossible not to stop and reflect on its meaning and the way it is represented.

There is no doubt that it is a difficult dish to photograph: long, decomposed, sticky at times, not ideal for cinematic food photography. Unless they are drawn, come the huge and mouthwatering plate of spaghetti and meatballs in Disney’s Lady and the Trump.

Today we are used to seeing them rolled up in nests, covered with parsley wonderfully chopped and perfectly spaced, surrounded by cherry tomatoes that couldn’t be more red, fleshy and static if you wanted them to. But let’s face it, before the advent of porn food nobody thought much about these architectural photos of food, and so spaghetti – difficult – were used in the scenes to represent something else: hunger, desire to eat voraciously, the need to show  genuine and “peasant” kind of food.

Speaking of hunger, nothing is comparable to the dinner scene of Poverty and Nobility (Miseria e Nobiltà). Of all the food it is the bowl full of spaghetti to have the place of honour to describe the sublime joy of the hungry diners.

 

 

And how can we forget the “provocative maccarone” by Alberto Sordi who says, without any shame: “you look like a worm, maccarone“

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A little less famous, perhaps, but equally iconic is the scene in which Jack Lemmon, in The Apartment, cooks for Shirley MacLaine and strains the  spaghetti on a tennis racket (announcing a meatballs service).

 

 

A few years later, Coppola gives up showing spaghetti, but not to talk about it; the description of Clemenza’s  dish would make anyone mouth water.

 

 

And in order not to end up in the years of culinary iconography, we stop at Nino Manfredi‘s Puttanesca in Spaghetti House. We are in 1982 and to obviate the spaghetti worm effect, the director represents it while it’s been pan-seared, seasoned also by the cook’s spicy description of the recipe.