Benoît Magimel, left, and Juliette Binoche in “The Taste of Things.” IMDB photo

A week ago, before Anh Hung Tran’s film “The Tastes of Things” even opened, or even before I knew I would review it, I scanned the various reviews to see what it was all about.

I was startled to discover how many of these reviews all began with the same words, a description of action in a big country kitchen.

“The opening scene spends 38 minutes watching a group of people preparing an elaborate meal.”

My description would have to begin practically the same way.

The scene has to be described exactly as it is happening, as if we’re watching a tornado or train wreck. It’s simple. Write what you see.

Simple, yes, as simple as a Renoir painting that is full of objects of the day, glorious copper pots, steam from the pots caught in the sunlight through the clouded windows.


Women are here, no men; this, Tran knows, is a French kitchen full of women of all ages, preparing a meal for famous epicure Dodin Bouffant, the master chef who oversees the work.

And there she is, the woman we’ve come to see, the actor, the star: Juliette Binoche has become Eugenie, the femme in charge who moves around between the cabbages, the herbs and lamb, carrots and the huge fish waiting to be gutted and dropped into one of the copper pots that’s clouding the women with steam.

There are the assistants, Violette (Galatea Bellugi) and Pauline, yes, Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire) again a Renoir girl who will become, in the coming months, an important figure, a savior of sorts to Dodin Bouffant when he needs one.

“The Taste of Things” is so simple, so much a grand luminous romantic story, nothing written about it will charm and delight you as the watching of it.

It is a love story about food and lovers, Dodin (Benoît Magimel) and the glorious Eugenie (Binoche) who spend their romantic 20 years sharing their nights together in unseen lovemaking and days caressing the food they create.

They then bring it to the table in this house to gourmands who sit for long minutes looking at it before lifting a fork, as though it was all a gift of angels, as it truly is.


The dining room, the kitchen and hallways are all soft and muted in caramel tones and perpetual autumn light. This, thanks to Anh Hung Tran (“The Scent of Green Papaya”) and cinematographer Jonathan Ricquebourg who surely loved the French Impressionists.

The story is based on the novel “The Passionate Epicure” (1920).

Costumes are by Nu Yên-Khê Tran, and visual effects by Laurent Brett.

Remember: What is more important than love for food and someone who looks and moves like Juliette Binoche?

“The Tastes of Things” is now playing at Waterville’s Maine Film Center.


J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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