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The Taste of Things Review

by Daniel Reynolds
4.5 out of 5.0 stars

Before anything resembling a plot emerges in The Taste of Things, director Tran Anh Hung makes clear what his film is about. With gliding long takes, he draws us into the kitchen of an 1880s French gourmet, his cook, and the wordless bond the two share in creating their daily masterpieces. In the performance of these duties, we understand what makes life worth living, and how love—of others, the world, or even just one’s next meal—can flourish, even in death.

Based on the novel by Marcel Rouff, The Taste of Things marvels at Dodin (Benoît Magimel) and Eugenie (Juliette Binoche) as they work. The passion they share for food extends to—but does not quite complicate—the feelings they have for each other. The film does have a plot, but it’s a gentle one, given over to comfortable scenes between Dodin’s friends, teachable moments with aspiring gourmet Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire), and knowing glances between the film’s lovers. The fly in the soup, as it were, is Eugenie’s health, which is mysteriously failing. No matter though, there’s still the next day’s meal and the time spent cooking it together. In this, Hung finds a tasteful balance between drama, romance, and the pure study of craft, tracing a line between all three as his film meanders through its scenes. This equilibrium extends to the film’s performances, led by the ever-beguiling Binoche, who seems all the more radiant while standing over the stove, glazed in sweat.

No one drops anything in The Taste of Things—not even when carrying a dish up too many stairs—and, of course, nothing gets burned. The suspense comes not in wondering if a given meal will come together, but in what the recipe, each ingredient added right in front of us with care and attention, will be by the end. Even when we feel like we know, we don’t. What a delicious meal this film is, and what a bountiful feast it makes for us.

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