Dir Anh Hung Tran | cast: Juliette Binoche, Benoit Magimel, Pierre Gagnaire | Drama | France, 135′
One time lovers Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel re-unite for a sumptuous feast of the senses that sees gastronomy as a conduit for a long lasting celebration. The French Vietnamese filmmaker first came to Cannes twenty years ago with his ravishing feature debut Scent of Green Papaya that won the Camera d’Or.
The Taste of Things, his seventh feature, adapted from Marcel Rouff’s 1924 novel The Life And Passion of Dodin-Bouffant is set in France in the late 19th century, the film follows the life of Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel) as a renownd chef living with his personal cook and lover Eugénie (Oscar®-winner Juliette Binoche). Eugénie and Dodin share a long history of gastronomy and love. While emotions remain contained, the culinary discoveries are, on the other hand, breathtakingly exquisite. The only sadness for Dodin is that Eugénie refuses to marry him. So, the food lover decides to do something he has never done before: cook for her.
We first meet Eugenie (Binoche) in her kitchen garden on a blissful summer’s morning chosing a fresh lettuce for a mouth-watering meal of gastronomic proportions. Dodin (Magimel) and his guests will savour at their leisure later on at luncheon. Every dish is a work of art created from a basis of fresh local ingredients in season. But the film also symbolises a wider appreciation of the simple pleasures in life we often take for granted such as the intense anticipation of a delicious dinner or the satisfying sensuality of long-lasting desire.
Eugenie luxuriates in the quiet pleasure of cooking and enjoying time spent with Dodin over the twenty years of their time together. Their epicurean partnership has gradually led to the bedroom where occasionally the two indulge in the realm of the senses that extends beyond the purely culinary. But Dodin wants to formalise the arrangement with marriage. And is also concerned for Eugenie’s well-being and her failing health. Slowly he takes over in the kitchen preparing the food as an act of affection and appreciation he feels for her in their relationship of mutual respect and dedication. And the act of successful courtship like the preparation of a delicious dish requires patience and meticulous timing, a heavy-handed approach may ruin the chemistry, but he must keep the pot simmering in this delicate dance of love that is typically French. @MeredithTaylor
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION 2023