Director Tran Anh Hung’s THE TASTE OF THINGS is a glorious adaptation of Marcel Rouff’s book about gastronomy, “The Life and Passion of Dodin-Bouffant, Gourmet”. Starring Juliette Binoche as , Dodin’s () cook --- and lover --- for over 20 years, this is one of the most gorgeous films in recent memory.
Hung’s attention to detail, along with his set designer, Toma Baquéni, and art director/costume designer, Trần Nữ Yên Khê, is breathtaking. Shot after shot of luscious, painstakingly prepared food is enhanced by the most beautiful tableware, serving pieces, tablecloths, candelabras, flowers, etc. Not only is THE TASTE OF THINGS a gastronomy masterpiece, it’s a feast for the eyes, as well.
Beginning at dawn, while gathers vegetables from the garden for the day’s menu, Hung and his cinematographer, Jonathan Ricquebourg, capture the perfect lighting for each scene. Hung told Ricquebourg that “lighting creates beautiful images” and the proof of that is this unique work of art.
cooks elaborate meals, often shared by Dodin with his four closest friends. She is aided in the kitchen by Violette (Galatéa Bellugi), who one day brings along her young cousin, Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire).
It quickly becomes apparent to both and Dodin that Pauline possesses the same innate gift for cooking as . Eager to make her an apprentice, visits Pauline’s parents to seek their permission. Alas, they feel she is too young to be separated from her family. A tragedy will soon change that assumption.
Binoche and Magimel, who share a child but never married, are brilliant together. Binoche is simply ethereal ---stunning, in fact. Dodin for these last 20 years has repeatedly asked to marry him. In a final effort to convince her, he cooks for her --- and the experience is divine, both for and the audience.
Each of these actors were already gourmets in real life so their learning curve with Michael Nave, the chef on location, was minimal. Nave, who had worked for 40 years for Pierre Gagnaire, the three-star chef who was the gastronomic director for THE TASTE OF THINGS, had the monumental task of actually cooking each complicated dish throughout the production. The food looks so delectable --- you can swear you can smell it.
Bellugi’s role as Violette is more background, and yet still pivotal. She’s always there --- and always ready to assist. Chagneau-Ravoire is adorable --- Hung calls her “fabulous”. He was enamored with her chewing --- commenting that “you salivate when you watch her chew”. She definitely has a presence in front of the camera.
Filmed in a chateau in Anjou, THE TASTE OF THINGS is an intimate, exquisite experience. There is no denying that in Hung’s hands food is art.
Opinion: See It Now!
It comes as no surprise that the new French film THE TASTE OF THINGS features almost no dialogue for its first hour. What we do get is an in-depth peek at two actors portraying a dedicated gourmand, (), and a master cook, (Juliette Binoche), doing what they love. And one does not have to possess a high interest in cooking to savor what happens in their kitchen.
Vietnam-born writer/director Tran Anh Hung has earned a slew of accolades during the past 30 years at film festivals all over the world. His latest effort, THE TASTE OF THINGS, was nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes this year, and he himself was named Best Director.
Living in Paris for almost 50 years, Hung has always wanted to make a film about food, and here he combines that desire with a rich romance. He credits the French for the finer points of setting a table --- glassware, stemware, napkins --- as well as the fine art of pairing food and wine.
In THE TASTE OF THINGS, Dodin has worked with for 20 years contriving the most delectable dishes. But despite his persistence, she will not marry him. The romance takes a temporary backseat to the predominance of food preparation.
It is utterly fascinating as we watch , along with her assistant Violette (Galatéa Bellugi), and an ever-curious Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire) flit from oven to sink to tables and back, handling all the ingredients for the meal.
Little Chagneau-Ravoire is yet another young actor whose performance belies her years. THE TASTE OF THINGS is her film debut, and she delights while taste testing the delicacies as she longs to become ’s apprentice.
Hung was influenced by the novel “The Life and Passion of Dodin-Bouffant, Gourmet” by Marcel Rouff. In this story, suffers an early death but Hung changed that so her relationship with Dodin could play out. And the director hired three-star chef Pierre Gagnaire as a consultant who also has a small role in the movie.
THE TASTE OF THINGS is a movie that begs to be seen a second time because of its intense beauty. And this is a film with virtually no music except at the very end. Binoche and Magimel make a handsome couple, and in real life they had a previous relationship which produced a daughter.
Opinion: See It Now!