Klara has a BA in French and Linguistics, and is currently reading for an MPhil in Egyptology. In her free time, she does some writing, which she occasionally shares on Wordpress.
The Taste of Things awakes senses that have long been dormant. In the kitchen of Dodin's (Benoît Magimel) manor, all things are captured by a patient camera: long, smooth shots move along with our gaze – and equally, our noses – from the gutting of fish, made beautiful in golden, pastoral light, to the juice seeping out of a sizzling rack of lamb, pressed onto a hot copper pan.
It reminds us that the French notion of gourmandise is not quite as 'gourmet' as we know it, with a trio of food lovers as its heart: Eugénie (Juliette Binoche), a non-aristocratic but highly respected cook, Dodin, her aristocratic counterpart, and alongside them, Pauline, the young daughter of farmers, in whom an extraordinary gift for taste is discovered.
Eugénie and Dodin's romance is but a garnish atop a tale of two gourmands, their journey through the senses evoked by the most delicate cinematography. Attention is paid to subtle changes of light and the passing of seasons, reflecting that careful measure along which life beside the potager evolves. We are witness to food at its best, to dining at its finest. From gentle close-ups of the preparation of broth to the quiet, triumphant sighs of Dodin and his party, it is a film that evokes the life in all that we eat – and life lived through what is eaten.
Ellen Sharman is a DPhil student at Oxford University focusing on Masculinity History. She has little time for films which fail the Bechdel test.
One could use infinite food-related puns to describe this film, but simply put, it is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen.
From its opening montage, The Taste of Things transports us into a bucolic haze of gentle birdsong, bubbling buttery omelettes, soft thuds of knives hitting chopping boards, and deep dull clangs of iron pans on stovetops. The sound design is enchanting, becoming a character in and of itself in a film where dialogue is minimal. Juliette Binoche's Eugénie wordlessly communicates with her ingredients as she lovingly prepares food with her chef-collaborator Dodin (Benoît Magimel), all to serve his circle of appreciative gastronomic friends.
The plot itself is ephemeral and subtle, revolving around the central relationship between Eugénie and Dodin. Their love is completely beguiling, and it needs to be: the film relies on our engagement with their bond. It's refreshing to see a mature love story so electric and alive, and much of the tension comes from the worry that surely a love so beautiful can't last.
Their romance with food is equally central to the story, and draws in a range of other well-crafted characters (particularly Pauline, an aspiring child gourmand). As with romantic love, the gastronomic love in this film is intimate, devoted, compassionate, and full of respect. The care Trần Anh Hùng takes to film the process of growing, cooking, and eating food is essential to its vitality and magic.
Zheyuan Tony Yang is a writer and curator currently studying BA in Comparative Literature at UCL. He spends much of his time in search of a good film or a good conversation. Find him on social media at @tony_yzy02.
Few simple pleasures measure up to the taste of a delicious meal, a sensation that is at once rooted in individual experience while being genuinely universal. You do not have to be a lover of French cuisine to appreciate Trần Anh Hùng's The Taste of Things (though it certainly helps), for it is a film about human connection; one that utilises mouth-watering roasts and desserts to stunning effect both visually and emotionally.
The dynamic that takes centre stage within the film is the one between gourmet Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel) and his decades-long gastronomic collaborator Eugénie (Juliette Binoche). We witness the mastery of their craft: Dodin with his meticulous knowledge of every detail that makes a recipe work, and Eugénie with her ability to bring such wonders from the page to the table. The camera gracefully soars through the kitchen during one elaborate cooking montage after another, during which close-ups bring us ravishing glances into the sizzling pans and boiling pots, while unbroken shots of the two at work allow us to see the assured glances and content smiles that define this beautiful, multi-faceted relationship.
The characters of this film spend much of their time thinking of, making, or enjoying food, but by the end of the film we are left with the impression that it is only part of how they enjoy life. Through its painterly composition and picturesque locations, The Taste of Things takes us on a journey through friendship, romance, and legacy. Such is the taste of life.
Lizzy, 22, a recent graduate filling her time watching all the fantastic films she can.
The Taste of Things is the perfect solution for those who enjoyed the culinary aspects of The Menu and The Bear, but are looking for a significantly more gentle experience. It presents a compelling case for food as a sixth love language, connecting friends, lovers and families. Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel both give charming performances that you can't help but fall in love with – with their characters, their relationship, and their respective passions for cooking.
The food itself becomes a main character, as the camera lovingly focuses on bright vegetable gardens, rich sauces and fresh breads and pastries – I challenge anyone to not start planning your next meal whilst watching. As a result of this, it could be a challenging watch for any more squeamish vegetarians, as the film doesn't shy away from any aspect of the farm-to-table process.
The setting of a French country manor provides a beautiful backdrop, and the film lingers on golden-hour shots of gleaming copper pots, hazy gardens and the impressive house itself. Surprisingly humorous at points, Trần Anh Hùng consistently tugs at the heartstrings; by the end, there was barely a dry eye in the room. This is a must-watch for any amateur (or professional!) cooks, or anyone with a passion for food and the little things in life.
Keoni is a computer science and linguistics graduate who used to watch loads of TV shows, but is now an ardent cinema-goer whenever he's managed a respite from engineering for sports broadcasting. He's trying to start reviewing more things on Letterboxd (@LegoKeoni), but he often forgets to bring his notepad to screenings!
In a fast-paced world, it's important to sometimes take things slow. Not everything can – and should – be rushed, and The Taste of Things takes this to heart. A respite from hard-hitting big-budget action blockbusters, we get long, sumptuous takes of boiling vegetables and sizzling meats, all from a rustic country house kitchen. It's like a feature-length Nigella Lawson cooking show, replete with all the sensuality but without the commentary, and it looks just fabulous.
Shots feel like they linger far longer than they should, but it's so pleasing to see the time and effort that goes into creating some truly banging dishes. Binoche and Magimel may be the big names, but the cooking is the real star of the show – and if you go into the film on an empty stomach like I did, the depressing coda of a microwave meal at night will stop and make you think it can be really important to at least once in a while consider the taste of things.