The Taste of Things, 2023.
Directed by Anh Hung Tran.
Starring Juliette Binoche, Benoît Magimel, Emmanuel Salinger, Patrick d’Assumçao, Galatea Bellugi, Jan Hammenecker, Frédéric Fisbach, Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire, and Jean-Marc Roulot.
The story of Eugenie, an esteemed cook, and Dodin, the fine gourmet with whom she has been working for over the last 20 years.
It has been a promising period for French cinema with Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall a darling of awards season. The Taste of Things from Anh Hung Tran was France’s entry for the Oscars and has also earned strong reviews on the festival circuit. It depicts the relationship between Chef Eugénie (Juliette Binoche) and restaurant owner Dodin (Benoît Magimel). It is a delightful slice of French Cinema at its best, largely a double-hander between the two leads who share wonderful chemistry and keep the audience engaged making their work and subsequently romantic relationship palpable.
The opening 20-30 minutes depicts the kitchen cooking for a particular dinner with sparse dialogue but the craft and effortlessness of the staff makes it a must-watch. It is best perhaps to go in having eaten as the food across the board looks so exquisite that it will make many a stomach rumble. Anh Hùng captures the environment of the kitchen and the importance of food to the rural community in the late 1880s. This is as much a visual feast as anything else, with the culinary work doing a lot of heavy lifting alongside the leads.
Dodin and Eugenie are so intrinsically in sync and this is in part due to the work of the two leads, we believe they’ve worked alongside each other for 20 years and the relationship has morphed into something more. It is a joy to see the subtleties of their working and romantic interactions and how much one means to the other and the joy it brings to those they cook for with Dodin renowned in the highest circles.
Little of the action leaves either the kitchen or Dodin’s estate and this could become suffocating but it is never the case; even when there are chunks that are dialogue-free there is something to captivate the audience’s attention as the narrative goes in some slightly unexpected directions for its final half hour.
Binoche and Magimel have a lot of heavy lifting to do but the lowkey performances are perfectly matched. Binoche has long proven herself to be one of French Cinema’s finest contemporary actors, living up to that reputation here but Magimel is more than a match for her.
Famed French chef Pierre Gagnaire worked as the film’s culinary director, no surprise therefore that it looks so ravishing. It really feels like an intimate peak behind the curtain of a top-class restaurant, regardless of the time its set in such is the elegance and beauty of the food being prepared.
The Taste of Things is a slight but gratifying slice of French cinema. If its reputation has slightly been affected by its Oscar selection ahead of Anatomy of a Fall, it is well worth checking out in its own right; engrossing and truly delicious.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★