HBO was kind enough to post on Youtube the first episode of its series on Julia Child.
I rushed to see this one, available in Morocco through channels well known to all those who live here!
So far I've seen the first four episodes and I simply love it.
This is Julia Child's second time on screen and I am quite impressed by the performance of the actors, the meticulousness in the creation of the settings, the ability to stage this America of the 60s where women had to be perfect "housewives" not yet desperate and where "junk food" was already showing its nose in the supermarket products.
I have already told you about my encounter with Julia Child, in Nora Ephron's film "Julia and Julie" which was the interweaving of two biographies, Julia's and Julie's.
The film focuses on the writing of Julia Child's book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", the series begins afterwards, when Julia and her husband have returned to the US and are about to launch the cooking show "The French Chef".
While Julia Child did not like Julie Powell's book, which was the basis of the film, the series is endorsed by the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. The two works are very different…
The life of Julia Child and her husband
The series is much more allusive than the film.
I think it is primarily aimed at an American audience that knows Julia. For example, there are hardly any details about everything that led to the writing of the book and its enormous success (just the amount of royalties, which impresses Julia's banker).
Her French friends, especially Simca, are barely mentioned, this is the break-up period when Julia starts to make her own way. We get the impression that she is falling out with Simca, although the two women will remain very close throughout their lives.
Julia's infertility is not mentioned, too, which may not help us to understand her distress when she learns that she has reached menopause.
Finally, her particular accent, that of the American South, almost Creole, is difficult to render in French, and is mocked by the show's producers, without any explanation of what it is. In the English speaking version, that's not a problem, of course.
In contrast, the series focuses much more on the love between Julia Child and her husband Paul, on the extraordinary companionship of two people who have helped and supported each other (in a positive sense) all their lives, loved each other emotionally and physically.
Sarah Lancashire does a remarkable job of bringing Julia Child's tall, imposing figure to life. The latter was 1.88m, Meryl Streep — who played her in Julia and Julie — 1.68m and Sarah Lancashire 1.73m… fifteen less than the "Big Cheffe". She is touching in her uncertainties, and funny too.
In short, it's really pleasant to watch, full of humour, gentle and kind.
There is a lack of cooking!
Although the titles of the episodes are recipes taken from Julia Child's book, the cooking is not really featured, less than in the film.
The recipes are shown from a TV production perspective, with some spectacular (the flambéing of the coq au vin) or funny images, the difficulty of putting a four-hour recipe into a 28-minute show is well shown, but I would be unable to make any of the recipes based on what is shown… even the omelette (even though it was Julia Child who taught me how to make the French omelette).
On the other hand, I also found that we found what made the qualities of the show: self-deprecation, ability to laugh at its mistakes or failures! With for example, this wonderful moment when a piece of chicken escapes, she picks it up and says "if you are alone in your kitchen, nobody will know anything about it!"