‘Midnight Diner’ is a food film with a heart

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‘Midnight Diner’ is a food film with a heart

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Michiru (Tabe Mikako) eats yams and rice served at Midnight Diner.


Food is a prominent theme on TV shows and films in Korea these days. But none have portrayed it as faithfully and with as much heart as the upcoming Japanese movie “Midnight Diner,” directed by Joji Matsuoka.

Based on the manga of the same name, the story has been internationally popular ever since it was written by Yaro Abe in 2007, having been adapted to a TV drama series and even a musical.

After broadcasting more than 30 episodes on TV for six years - each one focusing on a different dish served at midnight at the eatery - the story of the diner is finally being served to the silver screen.

The film is set in a small izakaya, or a Japanese drinking spot, decorated with stained-wood walls in a back alley of bustling Tokyo.

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Japanese actor Kobayashi Kaoru talks about the film “Midnight Diner” at a press event Monday in eastern Seoul. Provided by the distributor

Serving drinks - sake or beer - and food that is not on the menu most of the time, this cramped diner is a place where people worn out by daily life can receive consolation and revitalization.

With its opening hours running from 12 a.m. to 7 a.m., the eatery is visited by more people than one would expect. Some are office staff who come here after work, and some are strippers and gangsters who start their days at the place.

They are not the type of people who would usually get along, but once they sit behind the bar at “Midnight Diner,” they listen to each other’s woes and worries while eating food served by the so-called Master.

Played by Kobayashi Kaoru, who also starred in the drama series, Master is the diner’s owner and chef. He rarely talks and has a big, mysterious scar across his face. But his home-style cooking always manages to inspirit customers.

“I mastered all the food that appears in the movie,” said Kobayashi during a press conference on Monday at Wangsimni CGV, eastern Seoul.

In the film, simple yet essential Japanese dishes such as rolled omelet and curry with rice appear. People who are used to seeing the eye-popping meals or mouth-watering visuals and sounds commonly seen on Korean food TV shows may feel that the film is rather mundane. However, Kobayashi said the food that appears in “Midnight Diner” serves a different purpose.

“[The food] is not extravagant fine-dining dishes, but humble Japanese home meals,” said Kobayashi.

“Since it is a food movie, people might think the cuisine is the central figure. But it is actually not. The real protagonists are the people [who visit the eatery] with their heart’s broken and let down.”

He added that the most important part of the film is how these people “feed their hearts and souls at the Midnight Diner.”

The film opens nationwide on Thursday.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]
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