The Taste of Things (aka The Pot-au-Feu) review – Juliette Binoche foodie romance is an invitation to drool

The Taste of Things (aka The Pot-au-Feu) review – Juliette Binoche foodie romance is an invitation to drool

This film, directed by Tran Anh Hung, is visually stunning. However, it falls into a genre that I am not particularly fond of – the “foodie” category. In these types of films, we are expected to be entranced by the intricacies of food and its delectable offerings, while it is often used as a symbol for togetherness, family, and friendship. Recently, a friend and I discussed this and he argued that “foodie” films are no different from the “filmie” films that I love, with their endless shots of cinema projectors and poignant scenes of beloved movie theaters closing after decades. To each their own, I suppose.

The film, initially known as ‘The Pot-au-Feu’, features Benoît Magimel and Juliette Binoche and is set during the Belle Époque. It is an adaptation of the 1924 novel ‘The Life and Passion of Dodin-Bouffant, Gourmet’ by Marcel Rouff, who was both an author and a lover of good food and luxury. Magimel portrays Dodin, a fervent gourmet who lives a lavish lifestyle, partially inspired by the famous real-life foodie Jean Brillat-Savarin. Unlike running a restaurant, Dodin has the luxury of spending his days indulging in thoughts and top-quality meals, and he maintains a sleek figure while doing so.

Dodin is well-known for his expertise and he has a cook named Eugénie, portrayed by Binoche, who is also highly admired. Dodin has feelings for Eugénie, though he keeps it hidden. She expertly fulfills every request Dodin makes of her, sharing his instinctual and creative understanding of food’s taste, texture, composition, and aroma. To both of them, food holds a certain drama and poetry in the way it is presented and consumed, and is considered of utmost importance to a civilized way of life. The issue of those who cannot afford such cuisine is not brought up, and the lack of piousness is probably for the best.

There are numerous still shots of the dishes being prepared, with Binoche and Magimel thoroughly enjoying them. This invites us to drool over the refined sensory indulgence. I cheekily desired a 25-minute clip of Magimel and Binoche attempting to install the Deliveroo app on their smartphones with a weak 3G connection.

Dodin’s usual practice is to host extravagant dinners for his male friends, while Eugénie eats alone in the kitchen with the maid and the maid’s niece, who has a talent for cooking. One night, a pretentious foreign nobleman invites Dodin and his friends to a lavish dinner, but Dodin decides to reciprocate by serving a simple and honest “Pot-au-Feu” dish. However, Eugénie falls ill and Dodin realizes he may need to show his love for her through his cooking.

The actors Magimel and Binoche give exceptional performances in this film, showcasing charm and delicacy. However, I am uncertain if their chemistry is suited for a romantic storyline. As a film centered around food, it offers many appealing aspects and I was captivated throughout. It could be seen as a contrast to Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe, with its indulgent and excessive nature. Maybe in the future, there will be a director’s cut with a lengthy scene of washing dishes.

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