Berlinale has long prided itself on being a festival showcasing works that push boundaries – even if those boundaries are being pushed somewhere they perhaps shouldn’t go, such as off a cliff. As a film, the ambitions of Taste cannot be questioned, but its intentions remain blurry.
Bassley (Olegunleko Ezekiel Gbenga) is a Nigerian living in Vietnam. He played for a local football club until an injury brought his career aspirations to an unceremonious end. He moves into a vast warehouse with four women, and the group then cohabitate in a dreamlike state that defies rationality. It’s an experimental film with a capital E. They prepare and consume food together, almost exclusively in a companionable silence. Although it’s not in the slightest bit salacious, they’re naked most of the time, and surely it’s dangerous for someone to dangle their bare breasts right next to a wok of scalding oil?
Director Lê Bảo has an undeniable eye for the aesthetics of cinema: the composition of what unfolds on the screen is exquisite, playing with darkness and shadows in a way that is impressive, and often strikingly beautiful. Whether or not this gives the content any substance is another matter, and some viewers might find watching 97 minutes of near dialogue-free conceptual cinema to be too much of a slog. This is only Bảo’s first feature-length effort, and his subsequent work will no doubt give him an opportunity to refine his evident skills, perhaps resulting in something that isn’t quite such a disconnecting experience to watch.
This is going to be an extremely polarising piece of work. There will be those hypnotised by the sublime majesty of it, but, in equal measure, there will be those who might find Taste to be bogged down by an unearned sense of self-importance. Lê Bảo is one to watch, although regrettably, the same cannot quite be said of his debut feature.
Taste (Vị) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.