The Taste of Things (2023) still

The English title of Vietnamese director Anh Hung Tran’s latest film, The Taste of Things translates quite awkwardly in some languages like Lithuanian, and in French, which is the language in which the film was shot, it is called La Passion de Dodin Bouffant. We can draw many conclusions from the available linguistic information. First of all, it is a film about a man who is a gourmet and has a passion for more than just food. But… food plays a very important role.

Lithuanians watching the film focused on passion for food. The English took a more subtle approach and tried to summarize the main idea that it is not the most important thing in the film. The French, on the other hand, personalized the passion and attributed it to the protagonist, Dodin Bouffant (Benoit Magimel). In other words, there was cooking that completely captivates, enthralls, and inspires us to rush home and cook soups, mix sauces, stew meat, fish, vegetables, smell the aromas, touch the textures, admire the changing colors and enjoy the impact that our cooking has on others without any delay.

The Taste of Things (2023) still

It is worth mentioning these details, because they are present at every angle in the film too. I do not mean an overabundance of them at all. Inside, there was dissatisfaction when discussions about cooking, politics, friends’ gatherings, even the love talk, which is usually so pleasing to the ear, was no longer interesting, because I wanted more scenery of cooking.

Dodin Bouffant is a renowned chef in France, assisted by his faithful cook and housemate Eugenie (Juliette Binoche). They have been living and working together for 20 years, but Eugenie is stubborn when it comes to marrying Dodin. The man is no less passionate about the woman than he is about food, and the woman is obviously not repelled by his affection, but by the extramarital relationship that has developed between the two of them.

The Taste of Things (2023) still

Although the couple did not join their hearts in church, they feel infinite tenderness for each other. Set in the French countryside in the 19th or early 20th century, time has slowed down, and when we talk about cooking or love, it is not Gordon Ramsay’s hellish cuisine or Tinder that comes to mind first, but simplicity, gentleness, attentiveness, charm, concentration, pleasure, even bliss. Dodin and Eugenie cook as passionately as they love each other.

The action seems to kick off when an overseas prince comes to Dodin asking to share his kitchen secrets, but in reality, it is when Eugenie has a serious breakdown and Dodin realizes that he has been paying too much attention to the gentlemen and not enough to the woman he loves. Then he sets out to create art for Eugenie with his own hands, masterfully pouring out, one after the other, culinary paintings saturated with thick flavors, rich aromas and, above all else, gourmet passion. This is truly what we call cooking with love.

The Taste of Things (2023) still

Perhaps the overall theme of the film is temporality. Because the masterpieces that Dodin and Eugenie create only last an hour or less — no one is stacking the cupboards, no one is stocking up on preserves. They make only one at a time, small portions for each person that eats. All the beauty of the process, like the result in itself, is temporary and ephemeral, like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings.

On the other hand, it is an eternal process. Every day is a new day, but it has been going on since time immemorial, with our ancestors and the ancestors of those ancestors cooking and tasting food. Some hunted and went into the woods to forage for berries and mushrooms in order to survive, but there were also those who would take cooking a little more seriously and passionately. The allegory of food also illustrates the love between Eugenie and Dodin, which will last forever, but as human beings they are temporary and mortal.

The film is about the love between two people, but it is primarily about the beauty of transience, slowness, and ephemeral nature of the world, the texture of colors, and about cooking and the joy it brings when it is made not so much with passion but with patience and love, and eaten not just pleasure but with sacred reverence. As every little bit that now touches the tongue will soon move to the stomach and then into the bloodstream; this is the circle of life, this is the essence of life, which does not make up the meaning of our existence, but which is undoubtedly worthy of our respect as a sacred rite.

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