The Taste of Things (2023)

November 10th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

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 (Juliette Binoche). Eugénie and Dodin share a long history of gastronomy and love. While emotions remain restrained, their culinary discoveries are lavish and 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.

This delicious romantic drama also serves as a discursive entrée into French culinary history as post prandial conversion drifts into the domaine of gastronomic greats Marie-Antoine Carême and Georges Auguste Escoffier both respected as ‘king of chefs and chef of kings’ of French haute cuisine. And their dishes are sensuously prepared by Binoche and her assistants: a mouth-watering vol au vent  – you can almost taste the cream oozing out of it – followed by tenderly poached quails and an omelette Norvégienne otherwise known more prosaically as Baked Alaska and, of course wines accompany these dishes.

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 lavish proportions. Dodin (Magimel) and his guests will savour at their leisure later on at lunch. 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 tempting  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 life 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 luscious 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

NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL Winner Best Director | France’s Academy Award Entry 2024 | IN COMPETITION 2023


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