The Taste of Things
The kitchen drama is something that has increasingly arrested the attention of audiences in recent years, worming its way into the cultural zeitgeist with the fast-paced, urban tension of such outings as Boiling Point and The Bear. French-Vietnamese auteur Trần Anh Hùng slows the subgenre right down to the leisurely rhythms of the French countryside, however, exploring, with sensuous textures, the intrinsically interwoven entities of food and romance.
The romance in question burns between famous restaurateur Dodin Bouffant and his cook, Eugénie (portrayed by real-life ex-partners Benoît Magimel and Juliette Binoche), whose shared passion for food has, over the years, bled into a passion for each other. Although Dodin’s many proposals of marriage have, as of yet, been lovingly swept to one side by Eugénie, she still leaves her door unlocked for him many (but not all) nights.
The film opens with Eugénie conducting the preparation of a seven-course splendour for Dodin’s close circle of friends. It’s a sequence that takes its time to drag you into the laborious craft of gastronomy, but also the sweeping beauty of the process. It’s meticulously crafted and blocked, with every element flowing gracefully from one cog to the next, the camera dancing with the cooks and the food itself, creating the impression of a bustling eco-system; the kitchen as a living, breathing entity. There are sets that the film uses, including the area of Dodin’s estate where he hosts his guests, that are corridors of influence and high society, and where, in the case of the quarters of a fictional Prince of Eurasia, food is a conceited barometer of wealth and status rather than a warm gift of sustenance. Eugénie’s kitchen, on the basement level of Dodin’s estate, is food and love combined in true generosity.
Magimel and Binoche’s chemistry is, as one would expect of two actors with such an intimately shared history, effervescent, with the measured, almost wearied countenance of Eugénie elegantly complementing Dodin’s beguiling charm as the film simmers gently, brewing an endearing blend of fervour and tenderness. Whether its pace threatens to slow to almost stationary will be an opinion of individual taste, but Trần Anh Hùng, as a filmmaker who trusts the audience’s innate comprehension of the ebbs and flows of human experience, imbues The Taste of Things delicately with the tides of the most joyous highs and the most grievous losses.
The Taste of Things is released nationwide on 14th February 2024.
Watch the trailer for The Taste of Things here: