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I'm not really a foodie but I'm living in LA for six months and this was highly enjoyable.
- It's all about drool-worthy morsels in City of Gold -
Documentaries are funny beasts. I never know when I'm getting into one what the agenda truly is or if I'm being suckered or brainwashed. Two types of documentaries never fail to interest me. The first; sensational historical horror stories and ghostly tales. The second includes anything to do with food. So when I saw the trailer for Laura Gabbert's City of Gold, I knew it was only a matter of time before I'd be looking the thing up and seeing what the fuss was about.
Gabbert is a true professional with a tidy list of documentaries to her credit, including Independent Lens and the award-winning Sunset Story, which distinguished itself at the Tribeca film festival in 2003 for Best Documentary Feature. She focuses on her subject, which in this case is Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer-prize winning writer and food critic for the Los Angeles Times.
I heard about Jonathan Gold long before I saw him. The New Yorker calls him "the high-low priest of the Los Angeles food scene". The Seattle Times says his writing is "riveting", and the San Francisco Eater proclaims him "one of our country's most prolific writers".
So like most people, I was surprised to find his countenance so unassuming. He wears dark pants and comfortable shoes, low-profile button-down shirts, and suspenders - always. He drives an old Dodge pickup. In fact, he spends an exorbitant amount of time driving around the boroughs of Los Angeles, in search of the very best culinary contributions the city has to offer.
I was alone in the theatre for a morning showing of City of Gold, so I made free to laugh, sigh, and exclaim. Gold takes the camera crew to L.A.'s taqueria Kogi, famous for its Korean barbeque, introducing us to a watermelon salad with Thai feta, chili, and lemongrass. I literally moaned. And when he explains that he doesn't take notes on his culinary adventures, I looked up from my laptop. He says, "You could take notes when you're having sex too, but you'd sort of be missing out then." Point taken.
Gold has tackled many firsts. He was the first food writer to feature divey establishments like the humble food truck and the mom and pop. He was the first to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for food commentary, and one of the first to drop his mask as an anonymous critic. But his hopes and hungers run deeper than that. In writing about the city, Gold has been able to encourage cross-cultural diversity, in some cases bringing droves of thrill-seekers to flailing restaurants just on the verge of closing their doors. He is passionate about inclusivity and believes that the greatness of Los Angeles itself can be traced to the racial variegation built into its very bones.
Laura Gabbert carefully frames Gold's story, consciously remaining unseen, unheard, and painting a beautiful portrait of Jonathan Gold against the backdrop of teeming Los Angeles. Gabbert's lovingly drawn work contrasts sharply with that of other documentarians. You will not find precious voiceover narration or snippets of the director's voice luxuriantly setting up interview questions here. And thank the gods for that.
The music underscoring it all is fantastic and reflects Gold's own taste, which ranges from early Elizabethan motets to Wagner to Maggot Brain. He draws deft parallels from music to food and back, and he gets to, having studied Art and Music at the University of California in Los Angeles.
While profiling one of his favorite Vietnamese restaurants, Gold points out another outlier and giggles a little at the name of the joint; Pho Kim. He also puts a stop to any pronunciation issues concerning the dish. It's not "foe", my friends. It's "fuh". And that's coming from Jonathan Gold himself.
This review was first published on Narrative Muse, http://www.narrativemuse.co/movies/city-of-gold, and was written A.C. O'Dell. Narrative Muse curates the best books and movies by and about women and non-binary folk on our website http://narrativemuse.co and our social media channels.
I didn't watch 'City of Gold' when it came out mostly because I wasn't interested in watching a film about a food critic. When I learned of the subject, Jonathan Gold's passing a few months ago, I made it a point to put this documentary on my list of movies to see. Laura Gabbert profile of Gold is part homage to the man, but also a loving look at the city he inhabits, Los Angeles. While it runs out of things to say about Gold, about an hour in, it never lacks in illustrating the character of the city he loved so much.
The good in this portrait far outweighs the negative. I left this film wishing I had met this man. He just seems like a regular guy. A procrastinator. At first glance he looks like the kind of person you wouldn't let near your kids, but upon further review he may just have been a little shy and a lot unassuming. In the end, this is a must see if you knew his work in the LA Times or LA Weekly or any of his other various publications he wrote in in his 57 years. If you like LA, it's also a film worth watching. Perhaps you just enjoy documentaries, then it's also a film for you. Seeing Gold made me reflect at my life and I hope I am able to get as much out of it as he did. Final Score 8.3/10
Criticing a movie about a critic will never be easy. Fortunately this documentary is about as brilliant as Jonathan Gold is at unearthing L.A's eateries.
I didn't know about Jonathan Gold of The LA Times, but a documentary about him introduced me to his city with multiples of ethnic restaurants.
It was interesting to get insight into the fantastic cultural foods and celebrate the niche small resturants. However Gold was not very forthcoming and is clearly a writer and not a great subject for the camera as he cruised around. I felt it could have been compressed to 30minutes with less time spent on fawning media types explaining how great he is.
Reminds me that I can never leave LA since I would miss it too much and craving some spicy Thai food.
Great story about a great person. The length really hurt it. There wasn't enough of a story to make this a 90 minute doc.
10/5/16 Netflix DVD
Another reason to love documentary films. Jonathon Gold is a renaissance man with interest in food, music, writing, architecture and the demographics and cultural of a vibrant city. His commentary on people and how they fit his city are as insightful and in depth as his restaurant reviews. A fun and entertaining movi e.
If you love food or L.A. you will love this film!