THE TASTE OF THINGS (THE POT-AU-FEU) (France 2023) ****

Directed by Anh Hung Tran

 


The film THE TASTE OF THINGS begins with an extended cooking scene amidst a breakfast that is enjoyed by both Eugénie (Juliette Binoche) and her boss of 20 years, Dodin (Benoît Magimel).  The audience is introduced to both Eugenie and Dodin as well as their two young helpers Pauline and Violette.  Though slow-moving and meticulously filmed, the total segment (not done with a single take but with frequent cuts, yet with the camera swirling around the kitchen) lasts more than 30 minutes and might require some patience to watch as well as to sit through this 2 hour-15 minute historical romance drama.  But the effort is well worth it.  From the gardens outside the residence where fresh vegetables are cultivated to the kitchen where all the stocks are made from scratch using exotic ingredients like crayfish, veal short ribs and quenelles, the film illustrates gastronomical delights.  Mouths will be watering as one can almost smell the fragrances of the cooking ingredients.  As the segment unfolds, the audience also learns about the couple.

The film is set in 1885 France.  Eugénie is an outstanding cook who, for 20 years has been working for the famous gourmet Dodin.  Together they create dishes, each more delicate and delicious than the previous ones.  From this union, a love affair has sprung, with Eugénie leaving her bedroom door unlocked at the manor where they live.  Although he’s proposed to Eugénie many times, she’s never wanted to marry.  So Dodin decides to do something he’s never done before – cook for her.

The film is an adult love story where the line between cooking or rather,  doing something special for the other person and love equate to the same thing.  The deed is clearly more important than one’s words and one’s deeds can surely demonstrate love, care and passion for the other person.

Three-star Michelin chef Pierre Gagnaire served as a food consultant, assisted by chef Michel Nave, with whom he worked for over 40 years.  Also starring are Galatea Bellugi as Dodin’s assistant cook, and Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire as a natural talent who reminds Eugénie of her young self.  The film is loosely based on Marcel Rouff’s The Life and Passion of Dodin-Bouffant.   The current French title is LA PASSION DE DODIN BOUFFANT.

There is a lot of information dissipated in French gourmet cooking in the film.  One of the highlights is the ortolan eating.  The ortolan (Emberiza hortulana), also called ortolan bunting, is an Eurasian bird in the bunting family.  The ortolan is served in French cuisine, typically cooked and eaten whole.  As observed in the film, the diners cover their heads with a cloth while eating the delicacy.  The bird is so widely used that its French populations dropped dangerously low,

France surprisingly submitted THE TASTE OF THINGS for the 2024 Academy Awards Best International  Feature thus shunning the Golden Globe Winner for the Best International Feature, Justine Triet’s  L’ANATOMIE D’UNE CHUTE (The Anatomy of a Fall).  THE TASTE OF THINGS did not even make it to the final 5 nominees though it made it to the shortlist.  The film did win director Anh HungTran  (THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA) the Cannes Prize for the Best Mise-en-Scene.  At the point of writing, the film has scored an impressive 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

THE TASTE OF THINGS opens February 16 in Toronto and Vancouver, February 23 in Ottawa and throughout the winter in other cities.

Trailer: 

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