Originally titled The Pot-au-Feu and rechristened The Taste of Things for its American release the latest film from Tràn And Hùng celebrates the art of cooking.
Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel star as cooks who serve farm to table delicacies in the late 19th century with professional aplomb. In real life Binoche and Magimel were married for about six years a generation ago; a fact not lost on French audiences while probably of no consequence to domestic viewers.
In France “pot-au-feu” is like a lowest common denominator stew made by slow cooking meat and vegetables.
After wowing the audience with incredible cinematography and a storyline devoted to culinary delights Hùng suggests that Magimel will now create a masterpiece based on the easiest recipe he can muster. It’s like a gourmet chef making a really tasty hamburger.
The Taste of Things may have one of the loosest and non-existent plots of any film ever made yet the story becomes increasingly overwhelming with every successive scene.
There’s a documentary feel to the film as we observe the creation of food stuffs like the proper way to filet a manta ray to the physics of preparing Baked Alaskan. Where can you even buy a manta ray at today’s opulent yet limited supermarket frozen seafood sections?
Oysters topped with caviar and sea bream at least seems doable if you have the time, a modest budget, and patience.
Despite having wood burning stoves with no electricity, not to mention no cell phones or other electronic distractions, we’re solidly in the 19th century, and the food on display surely must taste as good as anything cooked in modern times.
This is a kitchen that’s never heard of seed oil.
The sub text revolves around the relationship between two cooks. There’s the constant hint that whatever weird love affair they have before and after the day’s work of cooking will one day emerge into a blissful harmonic marriage.
Oddly The Taste of Things was the Oscar submission from France yet got no Academy Award love. (Truth be told the Oscar® Best International Film nominations are as strong as any of the Best Picture noms.)
Magimel’s character is based on a French novel whose main character is an epicure of flavor, perhaps based on an actual chef of the era.
Have a light appetizer before seeing The Taste of Things but make a reservation at a tony restaurant for the after screening discussion and critique.