review

The Taste of Things: Sumptuous romance will seduce your tastebuds

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
The Taste of Things is in cinemas on May 2.
The Taste of Things is in cinemas on May 2. Credit: Rialto

When the Oscars shortlist for International Feature was revealed in December, the critically lauded French film Anatomy of a Fall was nowhere to be seen. In its stead as France’s official entry was The Taste of Things.

The French industry selection body had picked the Juliette Binoche film over the better-known Anatomy of a Fall, which eventually won an Oscar for original screenplay from its five nods, and it had seemed, on the surface, like folly – especially when it failed to make the category nominations list.

The Oscars kerfuffle may have diminished The Taste of Things simply for being not Anatomy of a Fall but there is so much to like in The Taste of Things, which also has its own awards haul including a Cannes best director gong for French-Vietnamese filmmaker Tran Anh Hung.

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It’s a breathtakingly sumptuous film that impresses with both its lowkey but pulsing romance and its truly delectable commitment to gastronomic passions. Do not, we repeat, do not, go to The Taste of Things on an empty stomach.

The Taste of Things was nominated for an International Feature Oscar.
The Taste of Things stars Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel are real-life former partners. Credit: Rialto

If you thought watching the Great British Bake Off without the waft of shortbread biscuits, lemon drizzle cake or a chicken pie baking in your oven was torture, you have no idea what you’re in for with The Taste of Things.

It’s literally in the title. Your eyes will pop, your mouth will salivate and you will want to taste all of the things.

The story is set in the late 19th century on a rural estate in France. It opens with cook Eugenie (Binoche), her boss, a renowned gourmand, Dodin (Benoit Magimel) and their kitchen hand preparing the most deluxe meal for a group of Dodin’s friends.

There’s a large vol-au-vent teeming with seafood, you can hear the crack of the pastry when they cut into it at the table, a chicken poached with truffle and a Baked Alaska. Even the braised lettuce will elicit mutterings of “ohmigod” under your breath. The film luxuriates in this sequence, taking the care to showcase each step of the preparation. Each spoon of butter that is ladled is given its own moment and it’s divine.

The Taste of Things was nominated for an International Feature Oscar.
The Taste of Things will make you salivate. Credit: Rialto

The passion for the tangibility of the ingredients, the appreciation of enjoying an incredible dish is mirrored in the relationship between Eugenie and Dodin. They share a purpose and philosophy and while he has proposed to her many times, she hasn’t accepted.

Like the chemistry of what’s going on in the big stock pot, simmering to perfection, Eugenie and Dodin’s romance is also a slow-burn. It can’t be rushed. Binoche and Magimel are former real-life partners and they sizzle on screen as two people who know each other’s energy and each other’ bodies. But it’s not obvious or overwrought. It’s sophisticated, adult and recognisable.

The Taste of Things is a patient film but it’s bubbling with intensity and a great lust for the love of food and the sensuality of a lover.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Taste of Things is in cinemas from May 2

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