By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Sep 26, 2011 at 11:00 AM

"El Bulli: Cooking in Progress" proposes to tell the story of what many dining experts consider to have been the world's top restaurant, from its seasonal closing to the development and launch of its next year's menu.

The restaurant, created by revolutionary chef Ferran Adrià in the Spanish region of Catalonia, is now closed. Using techniques like molecular gastronomy, it was far from a conventional eatery.

As Adrià tells his team in the film, an "avant garde" restaurant isn't designed to focus on good-tasting food, but to provoke an emotional response in the diner. That has led to a series of innovative techniques designed to produce unexpected responses from customers.

Of course, the vast majority of diners – even conventional "foodies" – are seeking something more conventional. So you'll have to be interested in Adrià's constant pushing of boundaries for this movie to make sense.

The first half or so focuses on the early stages of creating the following year's menu of tiny servings – customers got 35 plates served over a three-hour dining experience. And it does it in a very stripped down way, no narration, little in the way of on-screen information and an expectation that the viewer can follow what's going on.

As we move on, it gets more self-explanatory as dishes are tested, rejected and bits of this and that are added.

For an easier-to-digest look at Adrià and what he's created, keep your eye on the Travel Channel listings for Anthony Bourdain's recent episode of "El Bulli," filmed as it prepared to close its doors. It's straightforward and Bourdain, an Adrià disciple, tells his story well and explains the appeal of tiny plates of food that appear alien to most of us.

As for the documentary, in the same way Adrià presents a refined menu of very seriously designed tastes to an educated audience, "El Bulli: Cooking in Progress" is for serious filmgoers who can let this look inside a now legendary den of food creativity unfold, despite the questions that remain unanswered.

It screens at 7 tonight at the Ridge Cinema and 7 p.m. Friday at the North Shore Cinema. Ticket information for this and other Milwaukee Film Festival films is available at the festival website.

Here's the trailer for "El Bulli":

Monday night's new stuff: The big week of premieres has passed, but new shows are still premiering on the broadcast TV networks:

  • CBS: Most of the Monday night lineup debuted last week, but the return of "Mike and Molly," with newly Emmy-winning Melissa McCarthy, starts its season at 8:30 p.m. on Channel 58.
  • Fox: The big premiere of the night is "Terra Nova," the Steven Spielberg executive-produced sci-fi family drama about a future endangered earth that sends people into the prehistoric past to build a new life. It premieres at 7 on Channel 6.
  • CW Network: "Gossip Girl" starts its new season at 7 and Rachel Bilson's new "Hart of Dixie" premieres at 8 on Channel 18.

The return of "Saturday Night Live": The 16th "Saturday Night Live" hosting gig for Alec Baldwin brought the guy he beat, Steve Martin, to challenge him.

So, what did you think about the return of "SNL" over the weekend? It wasn't the best show ever, but pretty funny.

In the meantime, here's video of the Baldwin-Martin match-up:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.