Just desserts

  • by David Lamble
  • Wednesday July 18, 2018
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In "The Cakemaker" Thomas, a baker living in Berlin, meets Oren, a furtive Israeli with a sweet tooth. The pair's erotic coupling involves the invocation of Oren's lovemaking rituals with his wife Anat in Jerusalem. Following Oren's death in a motor accident, the grieving baker makes the bold decision to visit his late lover's widow and young child in Israel. Thomas cautiously insinuates himself into Anat's life, and eventually becomes a one-man bakery department in the widow's Kosher-certified cafe. "The Cakemaker," acted out in a trio of languages - Hebrew, German and English, with English subtitles - brims over with the world of gourmet desserts, which promises to bring it a lot of repeat business in this Just Desserts-besotted region.

Beginning and climaxing with naked man-on-man lovemaking, Israeli writer-director Ofir Raul Graizer spends a big part of his debut feature's second act persuading us that Thomas would allow himself to be romantically seduced by Anat, a secular woman who is herself bullied by a male relative, Moti (Zohar Strauss), who is as close to a villain as the film can boast. He's the local rabbinical authority with the power to withhold the Kosher kitchen certificate Anat desperately needs to keep her cafe's doors open.

It's to the credit of the small cast that the film's slow pace doesn't become oppressive. Cheers especially to Tim Kalkhof, who as Thomas is the most emotionally and physically naked and vulnerable of the film's characters. He comes to both treasure and bitterly regret his choice to invade a bastion of religious orthodoxy that is firm if not downright rigid in its bid to stay kosher in the bedroom as well as the kitchen.

Complete with baking tips and almost sinfully beautiful close-ups of sugar treats before, during and after consumption, "The Cakemaker" joins a select group of culinary-themed classics - "Bagdad Cafe," "Babette's Feast," "A Private Function" - that allow us to feel as deliciously naughty about our food choices as we have often been made to feel about other carnal pleasures. With Sarah Adler, Roy Miller and Sandra Sade. Opens Friday.