MiNDFOOD Reviews: ‘The Taste of Things’ is a feast for the eyes and soul

By Michele Manelis

Juliette Binoche stars in 'The Taste of Things' REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Juliette Binoche stars in 'The Taste of Things' REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
'The Taste of Things' celebrates the art of cooking and love, weaving a sumptuous tale set in the late 19th-century French countryside.

Not to be seen on an empty stomach, The Taste of Things — starring Benoit Magimel as renowned gourmand Dodin Bouffant and the effortlessly beautiful and talented Juliette Binoche as his head cook, Eugenie — showcases a never-ending array of gastronomic delights. French-Vietnamese director Trân Anh Hùng is at the helm and, deservedly, won the Best Director trophy at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. 

Set in the French countryside in the late 19th Century, the film is an adaptation of the 1961 novel, The Passionate Epicure, by Marcel Rouff. The story follows these amiable, hard-working colleagues who have known each other intimately and collaborated closely for over 20 years.

Theirs is a true creative partnership. While various culinary masterpieces spring from Dodin’s mind, Eugenie’s innate knack of understanding and appreciating his intentions is an important ingredient in bringing these creations to life. To watch the two at work in the kitchen is not unlike listening to a symphony, wherein musicians are playing at their best, creating their own perfectly harmonious universe.

In the case of Dodin and Eugenie, their relationship oscillates between mutual respect and passion. They communicate through the language of cooking, then at mealtimes luxuriate in their culinary efforts. All the while, he never tires of her beauty and charm, and she finds him endlessly amusing while gently rebuffing his many marriage proposals.

Their gastronomic triumphs are also enjoyed by their enthusiastic foodie friends, who get to appreciate their efforts on a regular basis. After many meals in the pair’s rustic kitchen, their guests are called upon to weigh in on an important challenge when Dodin is tasked with the job of hosting a dinner for the Eurasian prince, who is soon to visit their scenic village. He makes an unusual choice and opts to cook what was once deemed a peasant dish, Pot-au-Feu (the title of the film in France), a traditionally French recipe of boiled beef and vegetables. It is also a relatively simple dish, far from the more delicate and complicated creations for which Dodin is known. Dodin, though, is perfectly secure in his art form and clearly doesn’t feel the need to prove himself, even to a royal dignitary, much to the bewilderment of Eugenie and their friends.

One need not be a foodie to appreciate the film. Like watching a professional in any field at the top of their game, regarding these two chefs doing what they do best is a feast for the eyes and soul. Set against the backdrop of their simmering romance, The Taste of Things reminds us of the power of food, how it connects and unites. This 134 minutes of sensory overload leaves us with a refined and scintillating aftertaste.


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