Culinary tribute immerses viewers in flavourful world

Director: Tran Anh Hung
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Benoit Magimel, Emmanuel Salinger, Patrick d’Assumcao, Galatea Bellugi, Jan Hammenecker, Frederic Fisbach
Rating: (PG) ★★★★

The Taste of Things is director Tran Anh Hung’s tasteful, fervent tribute to the culinary arts. Set in late 19th century France, the film centres on Dodin Bouffant and his cook, muse, and lover, Eugenie.

Its modest narrative scale aids its technical marvel, heightening the sense of total immersion in the smooth and delicate, sensual art of cooking — a nonverbal language full of colour and flair.

Rather than conventional narratives driven by plot and action, the film respects its characters’ personal journeys through their dedicated craftsmanship. Taking place substantially within the single location of a kitchen, a place so captivating you never want to leave, the film captures the artistry of preparing each ingredient into a culinary masterpiece.

The film’s opening is an exquisitely poised, extended sequence where Dodin, Eugenie, and kitchen hand Violette host a suite of Dodin’s friends. The moving camera delicately probes the kitchen, with its long takes revealing each character’s refined talents as part of a well-oiled machine, and immersing the viewers in their rich, flavourful world.

The exquisite mise-en-scene and sound design ground the film in a naturalistic and earthy atmosphere that deepens the sensory experience. Although its narrative is somewhat airy, it leaves little to be desired in character depth. However, one might wish for more exploration of its cooking sequences beyond the magnificent first act, which leaves the viewer hungry for more.

I can only recommend watching this film on a full stomach or else you’ll want to eat the screen.