The Taste of Things – A perfect feast for the senses

Director Tran Anh Hung turns his eye to food in new drama The Taste of Things. The film starts out with a sumptuous 40 minute preparation for a fantastic feast. The scene has two cooks and their assistants preparing a meal in a large stone kitchen in the country. The camera follows trips to the garden to cultivate fresh produce, fetch water from the well in large wooden pails. As the characters prepare the sauces, marinades and stock before preparing and cooking the many courses that this feast demands. Instead of the usual frenzy we see in camera work of preparing a feast, the camera calmly breezes between each character’s task, with intermittent tastings for the young assistants to recount every ingredient without seeing what has been put in the sauces. It’s such an incredibly put together sequence that is not only a feat in filmmaking, it will also cause you to salivate as you can feel the taste in your mouth of each incredible dish. 

During this forty minute sequence there is rarely a few lines of dialogue between characters. This forces the visuals to tell us everything we need to know about the characters. The head of the house is Dodin (Benoit Magimel) who oversees the preparation and cooking of the meal as well as attending to the guests. His equal in the kitchen is Eugenie (Juliette Binoche) who has an obvious love for cooking and the art of it. Her face lighting up everytime she whips a spoon in to taste her work. They work with two assistants, two young girls Violette (Galatea Bellugi) and Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire) who carry out the bulk of the base work required. Pauline is brand new to the kitchen and is noticed by Dodin as a sort of instant chef who can name ingredients just by the taste. 

The story is adapted from the 1924 novel The Passionate Epicure by Marcel Rouff. Showcasing just how beloved and widely known Bouffant is for his cooking and his partnership with Eugenie and how there working together creates art is translated perfectly onto screen. While the two do create beautiful food together, Bouffant is clearly obsessed with Eugenie, with the audience shown glimpses of him approaching her room at night. We are not treated to the back story of how they came to meet or work together, Binoche and Magimel have such palpable chemistry (perhaps due to their past marriage) Bellugi and Ravoire are remarkable as the two “apprentices” their ability to convey emotion with little dialogue for their age is fascinating to watch. All four actors weave a delicate and well – orchestrated dance like motion while preparing and cooking the food, it really does show that slowing the camera and cooking down can work wonders. 

Hung allows all of these scenes to breathe and feel like they are flowing organically. There is no heightened drama or surprises introduced to hurry the plot along or create tension. Allowing the story and camera to flow around the food, the characters, their love for each other and the art of preparing a meal. As Eugenie and Dodin have their debriefs after long days in the kitchen, discussing if their relationship should progress and what would change if it wasn’t to work. Eugenie is initially hesitant as everything is working as it is, and why should it change, and if they do become official, what if it doesn’t work, what then? These questions are also casually thrown around in hopes of being a reflection of their artistry with little resolve. 

There is much to be said about things not being said. This is where this film shines, in the quiet concentration of the preparation of food. The love, care and passion put into creating dishes that look and taste spectacular. Hung is seemingly able to do this with little to no effort thanks to an incredibly talented cast who work in sync, delivering some truly memorable performances through these seemingly simple characters who are true connoisseurs of their craft. 

The Taste of Things is a true love letter to the art of cooking. Not seen through a busy restaurant kitchen in other films in the foodie genre, instead we are transported to a beautiful stone country kitchen that puts taste and passion above all else. Binoche shines in this film as a true artist and cook, fostering the next generation. Director Tranh Anh Hung encourages us to lap up and savour every flavour in this well woven tale that will delight your sense. 

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Director Tran Anh Hung turns his eye to food in new drama The Taste of Things. The film starts out with a sumptuous 40 minute preparation for a fantastic feast. The scene has two cooks and their assistants preparing a meal in a large...The Taste of Things - A perfect feast for the senses