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  • Colin Fraser

THE TASTE OF THINGS

FOUR STARS Love flourishes in a 19th century kitchen. But first, there's dinner to prepare.

DRAMA FRANCE French #THETASTEOFTHINGS

Starring Juliette Binoche, Benoît Magime



It seems there’s an unwritten rule of ‘food’ films that the story rests in the details. Think CHOCOLAT wherein not a lot really happens other than Juliette Binoche’s sweet-chef falls for Jonny Depp’s similarly wind-blown soul. There is, of course, much more going on in a tale that challenges the given order and moral corruption, but what we remember is story of love, and chocolate.


In some ways, A TASTE OF THINGS covers similar ground. Outwardly it’s the simple story of Chef Dodin (Benoît Magime) and his esteemed cook Eugenie (Juliette Binoche) who slowly fall in love in a 19th century country kitchen. But of course there’s much more going on in a tale about the powerful relationship between food and the heart, and its place in the cultural and romantic landscape.


Note: as strenuously warned by the publicist, this should not by any means be watched on empty stomach. Wise words, for seldom has a food-film looked this mouth-wateringly sumptuous. And not in a ‘look what the aristocracy eat in Versailles’ kind of way, but in a common-or-garden ‘I’ll order that next time I’m in a French restaurant’ kind of way. A CHOCOLAT kind of way. Perhaps it’s the Binoche factor.


Beyond the kitchen, writer/director Anh Hung Tran (creator of the acclaimed mid-90s sensation THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA) has crafted a beautiful exercise in calm and purpose as it presents the the detail of Dodin and Eugenie’s work. A first class sensualist, he uses their haute cuisine as a spring board to examine middle-aged love and if, like fine wine, ageing together makes the heart grow fonder.


Binoche and Magime were a couple for many years, a closeness which extends effortlessly to  their onscreen relationship. Eugenie and Dodin are clearly fond of one another, but will their proximity resolve to something more intimate? Will she accept his offer? Maybe, but with serious matters to contend with in the kitchen first, the heart can wait.


At nearly two and half hours and without a sensational through line, A TASTE OF THINGS is a film for those who have patience for a twelve course dinner with wines to match; for those who enjoy the slow burn aesthetic. If you’re one, you’ll be rewarded as Anh Hung serves up a mouth-watering delight from the rustic, picturesque kitchen of a country home filled with beautifully, artfully placed produce and dialogue. It’s not so much style over substance as it is style as substance, confirming that some films, like some meals, are to be savoured rather than devoured.


Fun fact: there are six Michelin stars between the film’s culinary advisors.


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