Hubert Wang

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The Menu: Burning the Spiritual Baroque to Death

On the first day of 2023, I went to see this exquisitely humorous satirical film The Menu and loved it. It is a straightforward wild stab at spiritual baroque: storytelling and overly elaborate packaging to disguise a barren core. Looking at the menu:

Story on how the food menu in movie is designed

Other than the dish names designed specially for the film, the ingredients and matching are the standard fine dining practice, and all the sublimation of the menu exists in the story telling.

Fine dining is indeed a good entry point, and the director wants to tell more than just this group of foodies and more than just the upper-middle class. The Internet has broken down the class barrier, whether it is the very upper class or the very lower class, we can see a lot of food, things, lifestyles, ways of thinking that we may not have access to in our lifetime. The emergence of short videos like TikTok continues to raise the lower limit of people's dopamine pleasure, but what does this mental addiction bring to people? Have we thought more deeply or more superficially on problems? Have our emotions become more subtle or more irritable? Are our hearts richer or more barren than before? Ask yourself, and I asked myself: in 2022 I ate a lot of fine dining and swiped a lot of short videos, my dopamine levels were extremely high while doing these things, getting the pleasure of high intensity stimulation, but the emptiness after the tide of dopamine was even stronger than in previous years, and the mental state of calmness and composure walked away from me.

The pursuit of excessive refinement is much like Japan during the Azuchi-Momoyama period, where daimyo and magnate merchants pursued prosperity and luxury, and with it came the decline of Buddhist influence (spiritual belief), and people began to look outward rather than inward. The Internet breaks down the class barriers and sends the whole society into a frenzy. The emergence of The Menu is meaningful to trigger discussion on the essentialism of human nature to explore what is actually important to human being's spiritual world.

What to expect in 2023? Learning from history, a trend of back-to-basics thinking like Chiryu's may become the new trend and people start to pursue wabi-sabi but the shift will never be so fast. We will continue to seeing a lot of spiritual baroque wrapped by the shell of wabi-sabi and storytelling will sooner or later become a derogatory term. Fine dining itself will continue to exist, who doesn't like food? Food is not guilty, but those who enjoy storytelling more than the essential "foods" will wear marshmallow clothes and chocolate rings, and burn themselves to death. Don't die in such a cheap and vain spiritual baroque world.

2023 第一天去看了这部精致的幽默讽刺电影《菜单》,很喜欢,直接狂捅精神巴洛克:用讲故事和过于精巧的包装来掩饰内核的贫瘠。脱离剧单独看菜单:

The Menu 里菜单的设计故事

除了名字本身为了剧情修改了之外,食材与搭配就是标准的精致餐食做法,而所有对菜单的升华都存在于“讲故事”story telling 之中。

精致餐食 fine dining 确实是一个很好的切入面,导演想讲的当然不只是这群吃货,更不止于中上流阶层。互联网打破精神上的阶层壁垒,不管是极上流还是极下流,我们能看到很多一辈子可能都接触不到的食物,事物,生活方式,思维方式。抖音这样的短视频的出现,不断拔高人的精神多巴胺快乐下限,但是这种精神成瘾,到底给人带来了什么?我们思考得更深入还是更肤浅了,我们的情绪更精微还是更易怒了,我们的内心更富足了还是更空虚了?扪心自问, 2022 我吃了好多fine dining 刷了好多短视频,在做这些事情的时候我的多巴胺水平极高,获得高强度刺激的快乐,但是多巴胺潮落之后的空虚甚至强于往年,平静与冷静的精神状态越来越少了。

对过度精巧的追求很像安土桃山时期的日本,大名、豪商追求繁荣奢华,与之伴随着佛教影响力的衰落,人们开始向外物求而不向内求。互联网是放大镜,打破精神阶层的藩篱让整个社会坠入狂欢。The Menu 的出现是有意义的,对人本质主义的探求和精神巴洛克的唾弃刺痛一下观影者产生一些反思,就已经是功莫大焉。

2023 呢?以史为鉴,类似千利休的返璞归真思维风潮可能成为新风尚,人们开始追求wabi-sabi 但是转向永远不会这么快,2023 我们会看到很多被土壳子包裹的精神巴洛克,storytelling 迟早成为贬义词。而 fine dining 自身还是会继续存在的,谁不喜欢美食呢?食物无罪,有罪的只是那些把 S’more 这种普通食物包装成 fine dining 的人,他们将身披棉花糖衣、头戴巧克力环,把自己烧死。不要死在这样廉价且虚无的精神巴洛克世界里。

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  • amethy reply

    i like your perspectives and agree with most of them. i just watched the movie and i loved it- way better than i do "the triangle of sadness" which is similar in a few aspects. dopamine is evidently associated with obsession, and obsession is a major theme in the movie besides social inequality. i like your mentioning of it! the only thing is i do not think, or hope storytelling will become a derogatory term- "we tell ourselves stories in order to live". those who get burnt are not punished for their love of stories but for them lacking honesty. and there're many arts in baroque style delivering deeply honest narratives under their pretentious expressions.