The Pot-au-Feu (La Passion de Dodin Bouffant)
Cannes may be an international festival, but on occasion there are films that simply speak more to its French home base than to a global audience. At the first press screening of The Pot-au-Feu (interestingly enough this is the English title, the French one is substantially longer) local viewers seemed to appreciate the flavour of this food porn dramedy, whereas the rest of the house grew increasingly frustrated at its seemingly endless listing of dishes.
The first 20 minutes of the feature consist entirely of gourmet Dodin (Benoît Magimel) and his cook, Eugenie (Juliette Binoche), preparing a variety of meals. They cut vegetables, boil meat, sample. Further, the couple teach their young apprentice about the fine touches, as they have her taste test a soup and identify the ingredients. Later in the film, Dodin is invited to dine at the prince’s palace for a meal that lasts eight hours. To return the favour, he thinks of preparing a Pot-au-Feu for the royal, despite its unsophisticated reputation.
Perhaps Magimel and Binoche had to learn some valuable kitchen skills in preparation for their roles, as every single one of their movements leaves the distinct impression that both know their craft, though nothing more challenging is required of them than disemboweling poultry. Their love story is more of a subplot and leaves the viewer cold, their dialogue merely a sad melange of metaphors and pretentious literary citation.
The cinematography upholds the glamourised visuals more commonly associated with advertisement or social media, and proficiently frames them within the story’s 19th century context. An intriguing visual simile is drawn between Binoche’s naked body and a pickled pear – though the depiction of the female form as something to be consumed is contestable, especially as her desire is not given equal weight.
A commendable factor in The Pot-au-Feu is the use of sound design to expand upon the locations beyond what can be seen. Peacocks and pigeons can be heard throughout the piece, without the viewer ever laying eyes on a live bird, leaving the impression of being surrounded by lively nature.
What director Trần Anh Hùng hoped to accomplish with this bland offering – apart from canvassing for French cuisine – remains something of a mystery.
The Pot-au-Feu (La Passion de Dodin Bouffant) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.