09/17/2010 01:45 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Jack Goes Boating and Kings of Pastry: What Can Go Wrong in the Kitchen

If you are a cook, there is a nail-biting sequence in the new movie, Jack Goes Boating, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman under his own direction, adapted from the stage play by Bob Glaudini that was such a hit at the Public Theater last year. In this astonishingly tender movie, wanting to impress Connie (Amy Ryan) Jack learns to prepare an elegant dinner. Timing the pork chops to their perfection, he puffs on a hookah with friends Clyde and Lucy (John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega), and well, let's just say, much violence is done to a smoke alarm.

At the premiere on Thursday, Hoffman greeted friends at the Paris Theater, among them, Susan Sarandon, Julian Schnabel, Cindy Adams, Robert Klein, Patricia Clarkson, Ben Shenkman, John Patrick Shanley, Barbara Kopple, Kate Davis, Amir Bar-Lev, Tamara Jenkins, Mad Men's Cara Buono, Cynthia Rowley, saying of his film: "Open up your hearts." In fact, if I learned anything at this opening and swank after party at the New York Yacht Club, everybody loves Philip Seymour Hoffman. Just as so many of the New York film and theater community came out in support of this film, a glamorous Amy Ryan-as unlike the mousy Connie as you could imagine-- hoped his appeal would draw audiences. Her character blossoms as she falls under his unlikely spell: Even in a bathing cap and goggles, flabby, walrus like with matted rasta hair, this sissy turns sexy.

In the documentary Kings of Pastry now featured at Film Forum, D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus follow a competition as rigorous and compelling as the U.S. Open. Pastry chefs contend for the Meilleurs Ouviers de France, that country's highest honor in the art of patisserie. Accomplished and passionate chefs gather in Lyon for three intense days of mixing, blowing, sculpting vast amounts of sugar, butter and eggs to create works of art. Pennebaker and Hegedus with cinematographer Nick Doob were allowed unprecedented access to this event. One wrong move and they could have destroyed a contestant's arduous efforts in winning the coveted three-color MOF collar.

This week's premiere party at Jacques Torres Chocolate was like an excursion to Candy Land. Jacquy Pfeiffer, one of the film's stars created a special pastry sculpture to mark the occasion. Looking closely you could see the intricacy of construction, ribbons of sprocketed film in thinly sliced chocolate. As this riveting documentary illustrates, making confectionary castles in the air is fraught with peril. One misstep carrying spun sugar out of the kitchen! Talk about drama!

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