Film Review: The Taste of Things | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, December 6th, 2023  

The Taste of Things

Studio: IFC Films
Trần Anh Hùng

Oct 06, 2023 Web Exclusive
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The Taste of Things features one of the most romantic sequences of the year, and it consists solely of one character making a meal for another character. The complex feeling that this simple sequence evokes perfectly represents Trần Anh Hùng’s film in general, which focuses on the power of food to connect us to others and ourselves. One tip: don’t even consider approaching this 135-minute film with an empty stomach.

Set in late-1800s France, The Taste of Things tracks the relationship between Dodin (Benoit Magîmel), a gastronomic connoisseur, and Eugénie (Juliette Binoche), the cook who has been working for him for decades. Every day, Eugénie works in the kitchen, often with Dodin’s assistance, to make complex, sumptuous meals that follow strict, multi-course menus. These meals are usually for Dodin and his five-person entourage, who marvel at the decadent flavors and visual beauty of Eugénie’s dishes. The two foster a romantic relationship to an extent. Dodin constantly beckons Eugenie to marry him, but Eugénie rejects his advances, claiming she prefers their current relationship and her status as his cook.

Their idyllic lifestyle is quickly interrupted when Eugénie develops a mysterious illness, becoming subject to delirious states and fainting spells. As Dodin and Eugénie come to terms with their changing reality, their relationship is tested as they continue pursuing their passion for food and its associated emotions.

Because of the film’s narrative, The Taste of Things has a heavy tonal switch to account for. While the film’s first half is light and airy, with prolonged sequences dedicated to Dodin and Eugénie making dishes, the film quickly becomes darker after the characters discover their new fate. Hùng navigates this tension with ease, moving between moments of light and darkness in a way where the two complement one another. As a result, the film’s emotional beats are profound and resonant, representing the very nature of life.

It’s been a while since a film could truly be classified as “food porn,” but The Taste of Things clears that bar within its first ten minutes. The film features many cooking sequences, all directed with delicacy and precision. The key here is camera movement. As Dodin and Eugénie walk around the kitchen, grabbing a new piece of meat or simmering elements of a dish, Hùng’s camera follows them, creating an immersive effect that keeps the audience not only glued to the characters but to the delicious meal they’re cooking in front of them. This style helps develop the characters, allowing audiences to understand why they care about food so much and how each ingredient and each recipe matter within the context of their goals.

The film also benefits from Hùng’s smartly written script, filled with beautiful reflections on what it means to care about something (or someone), the power of food as art and the beauty of being passionate about something. His heavy one-liners are perfectly animated and exquisitely delivered by Magîmel and Binoche, who completely shine from start to finish. It’s hard to make a relationship relatable and believable from the get-go, especially when their constituents’ dialogue focuses on a concept rather than each other. Because of the screenplay, and Magîmel and Binoche’s natural chemistry, their connection is so convincing that the film could almost be a documentary.

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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