The Taste of Things : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on February 14, 2024 in / No Comments

 

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, IFC Films, Gaumont, The Taste of Things, La Passion de Dodin BouffantIt’s almost too easy to liken The Taste of Things – originally titled La Passion de Dodin Bouffant – to one of the many multi-course meals featured in the film. You’ve got a brilliant appetizer with an introduction to the film’s dynamics through long takes and a dance of pots, pans, and various foodstuffs; a sojourn into deeper territory as flavors develop and marry; a palate cleanser that sets the stage for the main course – a well-seasoned repast that either breaks new culinary ground or soothes the soul with familiarity and richness; and finally, the dessert, which features both bitter and sweet notes lingering in our senses and leaving us with a parting blow that asks us to consider how each part of the meal worked in harmony with (or in contrast to) the others.

See? Piece of cake. But looking further into The Taste of Things starts straight from the film’s English title, especially the word “taste.” What is a taste but a temporary flirting between food and the tongue? Something that exists only fleetingly but remains in our memories as either joyous or painful. What is life but a taste of eternity, hoping to surround ourselves with people and a life that we love and enjoy? And what is twenty years but a taste of what a lifetime has to offer?

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, IFC Films, Gaumont, The Taste of Things, La Passion de Dodin BouffantIt’s these twenty years between restaurant owner Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel) and chef Eugénie (Juliette Binoche) that form the unseen foundation of their working relationship. Their movements seen in the first act are practiced and confident; Eugénie, laser-focused on the exactness of her methods, and Dodin, ensuring each dish is representative of the high quality expected from him, are a team that have been bonded by the love of food… and perhaps a love for each other, left unspoken until now. This isn’t some restaurant where the head chef is screaming at their sous because of a broken emulsion; this is a kitchen that operates in a kind, gentle manner, with Eugénie tasking her assistant Violette (Galatea Bellugi) and Violette’s young niece Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire) with all the eagerness and encouragement of a loving mother.

Set in 1885, the film places us in warm, comforting, and enveloping surroundings thanks to Jonathan Ricqueborg’s lighting and photography schemes. The orange sunlight flooding through the windows casts the kitchen in a welcoming haze, speaking of both the excitement of creation and the coaxing of flavors from each ingredient to make these dishes spectacular. Conversely, Ricqueborg knows when to scale this suffusing light back to highlight more pointed and tense sequences, engaging us in a push/pull that guides us to each scene’s feeling and truth.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, IFC Films, Gaumont, The Taste of Things, La Passion de Dodin BouffantDirector Trần Anh Hùng and editor Mario Battistel allow coverage to go on in long takes that give us spatial relations and depth, also imparting subtle energy and delight with each camera placement and movement. A few of these unbroken sequences move to many positions in one shot but never feel like they’re only there to please cineastes; there’s a zest and purpose that Ricqueborg captures with flowing style, allowing us to breathe in and experience these sequences without interrupting needlessly. There is nothing unnecessary in this film, not even music; every sound heard until the closing credits comes from what you see on camera and around it. Hùng never lets us get caught up in adornments; he is unwilling to distract us from moving forward by adding artifice for artifice’s sake.

After this meal – which takes up almost the entirety of the first act – we dive deeper into the glances shared between Eugénie and Dodin while hearing their friends talk about their culinary art and how they’re at the top of their game. Possible romance is hinted at and joked about, but there’s a seriousness behind it, which sets up Dodin’s next move: He will cook a multi-course meal for her. It will be for her to taste, and her alone. From here springs the rest of their lives, or what we hope will be the rest of their lives.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, IFC Films, Gaumont, The Taste of Things, La Passion de Dodin BouffantThe notion of “tasting” runs through this film like a spirit unbound. Romantic moments are whittled down to the merest of hints and the most fleeting of smiles, as opposed to the more overt physical encounters from other films. Hùng, also credited with the screenplay, doesn’t seem attached to the tangible; he’s more interested in experiences lodging themselves into our senses more permanently than the crudeness and frailty of the human body and condition. That, too, is part and parcel of what makes The Taste of Things one of the most beautiful, humanistic movies I’ve ever seen.

Former romantic partners Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel reunite with a chemistry that defies mere words. They are defined by their movements around and with each other. Every cooking scene, every bit of shared dialogue, and every touch – they’re all woven with nuance and grace, sharing a true appreciation for the other in their eyes and motions. While Magimel cuts a steady posture throughout as a man who knows how lucky he is, Binoche stands firm as a bit of a worn soul, happy with what she has and whom she shares it with. Together, they ignite this film with passion and cascading goodwill, masking their characters’ feelings for each other in the guise of professionalism while being vulnerable enough to know when to drop their staid pretenses.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, IFC Films, Gaumont, The Taste of Things, La Passion de Dodin BouffantEven at 134 minutes, The Taste of Things is exactly that – a taste. Of life, both separate and combined. Of love, unrequited and fully realized. Of a work that brings joy to both creator and recipient. Of how far we would go to make someone happy. Of the brilliance of passion and the sorrows of loss. It’s a taste worth going back for again and again, if only to prolong and find a new appreciation for the experience each successive time. The Taste of Things is truly magnificent, a grand showcase of filmmaking, performance, and feeling.

Rated PG-13 by the MPA for some sensuality, partial nudity and smoking. Original title: La Passion de Dodin Bouffant. In French with English subtitles. Running time: 134 minutes. Released by Gaumont.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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