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  • Writer's pictureJamie

The Taste of Things - Review

A film of many names, La Passion De Dodin Bouffant, Le Pot-Au-Feu and the one I knew it as, The Taste of Things. The French submission for the 2024 Academy Awards. Tràn Anh Hùng’s film breaks precedent that the 2020s have set up about the cooking profession. Between The Bear and Boiling Point, I thought I could never enter a kitchen again. However, this romantic and hunger-inducing film gives me the hope that I will see a hob without trauma again. Through subtle and beautiful performances, an ease of connection and food you can taste through the screen, The Taste of Things is a quiet, feel good two hours that’ll leave you internally warm and incredibly starving. 

Eugénie (Juliette Binoche) helps to bring the renowned chef Dodin’s (Benoît Magimel) recipes to life through master presentation and the unspoken understanding that they have between them. We open the film on a showcase of that understanding, as Eugénie and her assistants prepare a meal that Dodin is hosting for a group of his friends. Dodin is involved in the cooking process, excited about the flavours and teaching the assistants about what they’re doing. Eugénie watches from behind the stove as she focuses on the precise timings of the dishes. 

Once served we’re allowed into more of the day to day with Dodin and Eugénie where we see their love for one another and comfort in each other's reliability. They’re not married and Eugénie doesn’t want to marry Dodin because she’s afraid that it will change their relationship as it is now. 

We see a glimpse of Eugénie’s illness during the initial cooking scene with the doctors later investigating and having no indication of what it might be. Along with her illness, Eugénie and Dodin prepare to host the prince for a meal, planning the menu, navigating their daily lives and cooking offensively delicious looking meals along the way. 

The Taste of Things is not one I really had on my radar as a “must watch” before it was long listed for the Oscars. The more I heard, the more I anticipated it. It’s release on Valentine’s day was the correct choice with such a delicate view on romance which takes form in an unconventional way, without the usual structures or cliches that romance films often serve up. 

The love takes many forms in this film, from the words and looks exchanged by Eugénie and Dodin or the care that they both put into their cooking. The presentation and delicacy in their preparation shows so much of the love. This is especially apparent when Eugénie is sick and Dodin creates a multi dish meal that has innovative flavours and that signature affectionate care. 

Apart from showing their love through food, it also presents food as an art form, from cooking it to the plating. With a recent film, Showing Up, I spoke about seeing the culmination of work and how the reactions others have to your art can surprise you. In The Taste of Things, there are a few instances of this, where the chef sees how people react to eating or just seeing the food created and it feels like a complete satisfaction conveyed through stellar performances. 

Both leads in this film fit their parts so perfectly. Juliette Binoche is so immediately endearing and Benoît Magimel feels safe while you watch. There was a moment where I thought it may have been a bit of an “upstairs / downstairs” dynamic between the two but the film quickly quashes those expectations and shows you their equality. 

They both have a depth of emotion without having to say it or break it down for the audience, you see their connection by the way they interact or look at one another. 

Other than the leads, we get a strong supporting cast in the assistants, Violette (Galatéa Bellugi) and Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire) and Dodin’s circle of friends, which just seem like a group of food- enjoying men, those are my people. I have found my tribe, in 19th century France. 

The cast are supported by stunning camera work, floating through the film with a golden hour glow and a warmth of candlelight. It is bathed in orange without feeling sickly or over used. The house is huge and yet feels intimate and cosy by the set design and lighting. Shot choices, from fluid tracking shots to steady and purposeful shots make the film feel more grounded and easy to connect to.

I have to be honest that I don’t think there is any music in this film, it allows the precise sound design of the cooking and preparation to shine through instead. They put a lot into these sound effects and their mix. It was immersive to watch the film with such emphasis on sound like this, making you feel like you’re watching a Food Network show with exquisite production value and an intense romance between the hosts. 

The Taste of Things might not have been the right choice for France to submit as their international Oscars submission but it was the right choice for a Valentine’s Day release. It contains the staples of Valentine’s Day, love, expensive looking food and French people. This is my first Tràn Anh Hùng film but after seeing their approach to storytelling and showcasing emotion with an “activity”, I will be seeking out more of their work so I can feel good, or at least feel something. 


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