Directed by: Trần Anh Hùng
Written by: Trần Anh Hùng
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Benoît Magimel, Emmanuel Salinger, Patrick d'Assumçao, Galatea Bellugi, Jan Hammenecker
Released: May 2, 2024
Grade: A-

The Taste of Things

Whether it be two Italian brothers running a struggling restaurant (Big Night), a guy driving across America with a Cuban food truck (Chef), or a talking rat who dreams of becoming a chef (Ratatouille), there’s something about “food movies” that whets the appetite and lures audiences in.  You may not be able to smell and taste what appears on screen, but the sights and sounds of the succulent dishes create a near-equal sense of fulfillment.

The Taste of Things was submitted as France’s entry in the best international feature film category of this year’s Academy Awards.  That caused a ruckus within cinematic circles given its submission ahead of the Palme d’Or winning Anatomy of a Fall.  More fuel was added to the fire when The Taste of Things ultimately missed out on a nomination while Anatomy earned nods for best screenplay (which it won), best director, and best picture.

While most (including me) would agree Anatomy of a Fall is the superior flick, The Taste of Things is still a high-quality romantic drama which audiences should embrace.  It’s a late 19th Century tale set on a French estate.  Dodin (Magimel) owns the beautiful residence while Eugénie (Binoche) has served as his in-house cook for roughly two decades.  What began as a simple professional relationship has now become a deeper connection driven by love and admiration.

I admired the approach of Vietnamese-born filmmaker Trần Anh Hùng (The Scent of Green Papaya) who serves as both writer and director.  We’ve seen plenty of movies where two characters express their love physically (kissing, sex) or through heartfelt conversation.  In this case, Dodin and Eugénie get the message across through the power of food.  They’ll spend hours in the well-stocked kitchen using the freshest of ingredients to cook up mouth-watering dishes for each other.  Dialogue is used sparingly as it’s the food which does the talking.

It’s a great role for both Benoît Magimel (The Piano Teacher) and Oscar winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) who fit the characters beautifully.  Void of cliches and artificial tension, it’s just nice to watch the day-to-day actions of two people who love life, food, and each other.  Several sequences will leave you smiling and, in seeing the positive side of the human condition, it provides an injection of “feel good” which sticks with you on leaving the cinema.