In today’s film world, it’s remarkable to see a love story in which the heroine is almost 60: the confident, sensual Juliette Binoche.
In The Taste of Things she plays the role of Eugenie, a dedicated cook, who shares with the wealthy chef Dodin Bouffant (Benoit Magimel) a passion for fine food – and for each other.
The film, directed by French Vietnamese film maker Tran Anh Hung (The Scent of Green Papaya) is based on Marcel Rouff’s 1924 French novel, The Passionate Epicure, and set in 19th Century rural France.
The film starts with a wonderful scene more than half an hour long. In a big country kitchen, with no modern appliances, two people and their young assistants are preparing an intricate meal for a dinner party.
The camera unhurriedly follows the characters as they prepare the food, slicing and chopping and adding the ingredients to enormous pots sizzling on huge wood stoves.
Dodin is overseeing the meal, doing some cooking himself and splitting his time between the kitchen and his guests in the dining room upstairs.
Eugenie is involved in everything, with young Violette (Galatea Bellugi) and Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire) poised to help whenever called.
There is a mutual respect between Dodin and Eugenie, who has been working for him for 20 years. He loves her and has proposed marriage to her many times, but she values her independence.
Then we watch the creation of a second perfect meal, this time prepared entirely by Dodin, in homage to Eugenie – an inspired gift to finally persuade her to marry him.
The cinematography by Jonathon Ricquebourg is mesmerising, whether it is lingering over the glorious countryside or displaying meals so delicious-looking you can almost smell them.
This is a film to savour – a tender love story and a feast for the senses. Binoche is outstanding as Eugenie but all the characters are excellent.
* The Taste of Things, a Perth Festival Lotterywest film, is showing at UWA’s Somerville Auditorium until January 28.
145 minutes long.
Watch the trailer…