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Do not go hungry into French film The Taste of Things or you risk salivating two hours on end, not so much for the trifle of a story or the old-fashioned filmmaking but for all the delicious food on display.

For the first thirty minutes of The Taste of Things you’ll only see people talking about food, preparing food in painstaking detail and consuming food with a gusto that borders on obsession. So if you are indifferent about food, this most definitely is not a picture for you.

Director Tran Anh Hung – of The Scent of the Green Papaya fame –delectably dissects French food habits of the late nineteenth century and uses them as a metaphor for the central relationship between fine dining lover Benoît Magimel and his trusted chef Juliette Binoche.

While the chemistry between the central pair is handled with wonderfully nuanced fragility, Tran Anh Hung nevertheless chooses a visual, thematic and narrative approach that is too classical to fully engage the viewer. Compare this film for example with eighties Oscar winner Babette’s Feast and it would seem like cinematic language has hardly moved on at all.

Don’t get me wrong, you will not be bored throughout The Taste of Things, and individual scenes and line readings still elevate the film over similar period pieces, while it is always a pleasure to see seasoned pros like Magimel and Binoche sink their teeth into roles they are perfect for.

But the fact that the film clearly caters for an older audience doesn’t absolve it from its own reluctance to offer more than mellow, predictable fare. The Taste of Things thus is closer to a comforting bowl of simple chicken soup than to a chef’s table spectacular.

release: 2023

director: Tran Anh Hung

starring: Benoît Magimel, Juliette Binoche, Emmanuel Salinger, Galatéa Bellugi


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