Tuesday , May 28 2024
The Taste of Things, NYFF 2023
Benoît Magimel, Juliette Binoche in 'The Taste of Things,' (FLC Press)

Film Review: ‘The Taste of Things’ at the New York Film Festival

Trần Anh Hùng’s extraordinary film The Taste of Things leaves one starving for the delectable foods the characters create. With thoughtful design and pristine coordination, the dishes visually equal those in Michelin-starred restaurants. Currently showing in the Spotlight section of the 2023 New York Film Festival, the film won a Palme d’Or for Best Director at Cannes.

Uniquely, this glorious film of epicurean delight magnetizes one’s senses to hear, see, feel and taste through the director’s visual and sound design. Brilliantly, Hùng’s cinematography, shot compositions, close-ups of turbot, roasted veal loin, ortolans, etc. arouse the sensual appetites. The film also captures the atmosphere, mood and light of late 19th-century France. With its perfect melding of artistic design elements of great beauty, The Taste of Things is unforgettable.

From every detail from the lavish decor and the balletic movement of food preparation to the sounds of sizzling meats and boiling soups, we enjoy the smells and tastes through our imaginations. With acute specificity the kitchen is stunning, with its period stove, wooden counters, fresh flowers, gorgeous fresh vegetables, wild game, chickens and more. And the luxurious dining room perfectly fitted with candles, silverware, china, and crystal stemware sets our expectations for the incredible dining to come.

With the great actors Juliette Binoche as Eugénie, the cook, and Benoît Magimel as Dodin, the gourmet chef she has been working with for 20 years, Hùng shows the quality of their relationship. It aligns with the amazing dishes they prepare. By degrees we note how their bond arises from their love of creative expression through food. Together they imagine menus, experiment with dishes, keep a large garden, and excel at the French culinary arts.

Renowned far and wide, they receive invitations even from foreign royalty, which Dodin usually rejects. But for the first time Dodin accepts one, because he feels this particular royal’s chef should learn the finer points of nuance, subtlety, texture and taste without overwhelming excess. And only Dodin and Eugénie can teach him.

'The Taste of Things' at NYFF 2023 (FLC Press)
The Taste of Things at NYFF 2023 (FLC Press)

After the superb opening segment, we understand that Eugénie and Dodin’s happiness resides in what they’ve built together. Intrigued, we question if his attitude demeans her for just being a cook. But by the end of the film Hùng strikes that notion from our assumptions.

In light of Eugénie’s conflicting desires to open or lock her door to him, they haven’t married. This becomes one of the turning points. Dodin wishes that their bond be permanent. When she has a (second) fainting spell, he is prompted to create a superb dinner of appreciation for her alone. And at its conclusion, she finds a diamond ring in his dessert creation.

Prior to this, she had turned him down, repeatedly. She enjoys being his equal in the kitchen and prefers that as her dominion. On the other hand she knows that as a wife, her privileges and rank would be diminished in her own eyes. Possibly, he would feel the same way and she refuses to risk it.

Thus, the theme of a woman attaining and even surpassing the excellence of a chef resonates. Indeed, France has been one of the most discriminatory toward women regarding the culinary arts. For proof read about Julia Childs’ adventures in French cooking schools.

The Taste of Things presents a fascinating dynamic among the characters involving every aspect of human vibrance, enjoyment and joie-de-vivre. Nevertheless, and indeed because of the joys they experience, one senses that something will go wrong. Somehow, “things” are too perfect for this adorable, charming couple surrounded by happy friends, who share their love of superb wine pairings with unmatched gastronomy.

This is a must-see, even if you don’t qualify as a gourmand. For tickets to this unforgettable masterpiece visit the NYFF 2023 website.

About Carole Di Tosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is a published writer, playwright, novelist, poet. She owns and manages three well-established blogs: 'The Fat and the Skinny,' 'All Along the NYC Skyline' (https://caroleditosti.com/) 'A Christian Apologists' Sonnets.' She also manages the newly established 'Carole Di Tosti's Linchpin,' which is devoted to foreign theater reviews and guest reviews. She contributed articles to Technorati (310) on various trending topics from 2011-2013. To Blogcritics she has contributed 583+ reviews, interviews on films and theater predominately. Carole Di Tosti also has reviewed NYBG exhibits and wine events. She guest writes for 'Theater Pizzazz' and has contributed to 'T2Chronicles,' 'NY Theatre Wire' and other online publications. She covers NYC trending events and writes articles promoting advocacy. She professionally free-lanced for TMR and VERVE for 1 1/2 years. She was a former English Instructor. Her published dissertation is referenced in three books, two by Margo Ely, Ph.D. Her novel 'Peregrine: The Ceremony of Powers' will be on sale in January 2021. Her full length plays, 'Edgar,' 'The Painter on His Way to Work,' and 'Pandemics or How Maria Caught Her Vibe' are being submitted for representation and production.

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