A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
As Laura Gabbert’s documentary “City of Gold” opens, the camera tracks in on a man sitting in front of a laptop, presumably at home. With his balding pate atop long gray sidelocks and droopy moustache, he looks a bit like David Crosby. Only more corpulent.
He is Jonathan Gold, celebrated food writer. The film is a flattering portrait of him and, via his passionately informed perspective, of Los Angeles and its food culture, especially the food carts and hole-in-the-strip-mall ethnic enclaves that make the city such an extraordinary culinary mosaic. That description alone perhaps suggests why this is one of those films that make the reviewer’s duty to assign it one-to-four stars a pointless exercise, since such judgments will vary wildly depending on the individual viewer’s perspective and tastes.
For fans of the genial, garrulous Gold, of Los Angeles culture or of films about food, “City of Gold” will easily merit four stars and its 90-minute length. For those less enamored of those subjects, its claim on any stars will be qualified by some serious questions about its cinematic worth.
Those who value documentaries do so because they come at their subjects with an implicit promise to question them as a deeply and appropriately as possible. “City of Gold,” though, offers no such pledge. In that, it’s much like other nonfiction—a better term than documentary in this case—films that deal with food. These mostly seem to specialize in giving viewers mouth-watering views of various sorts of exotic delicacies and their creators. Rather than incisive questioning, they offer vicarious pleasures. Hence the jesting but undeniably apposite term “food porn.”