Shiny Shelf

LONDON FILM FESTIVAL: Grand Luncheonette

By Jim Smith on 01 November 2005

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

A short film (4 minutes) ‘Grand Luncheonette’ is an epitaph for Fred Hakim’s 42nd Street, New York City Hot Dog stand which closed forever in 1997 after the block it was on was bought out, gentrified and sold on.

On the spot were Hakim and his Father sold Hot Dogs, burgers and potato snack twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week from 1938, there now stands a Disney Store, offering movie merchandise at far less extensive hours.

Director Peter Sillen’s film is a careful jumble of footage of a day at the stand, interview material and impressionistic close-ups of pieces of the surrounding area of New York. Family, friends and customers of the Hakims offer the odd word (usually touching on the forlorn hope of an eventual reopening) while a turned-up soundtrack of traffic noise, clanging kitchen items and frying onions places you at the centre of the stand’s hectic, business-as-usual, final day day.

The grainy photography and evocative sound make the events in Hakim’s seem profoundly nineties, separating that decade out from the here and now in a way I’ve not felt it to be before, making it a time that, depending on your mood, is either long ago than it feels or feels longer ago than it is.

A thoughtful, striking, beautiful but sad short which provokes gently, but with a force that can only come from honestly observing of real event, ‘Grand Luncheonette’ certainly left a strong impression on the audience I saw it with. It will probably chime more with us big city dwellers than other folk, but it’s absolutely the kind of thing that you go to film festivals for.

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