© Weltkino Filmverleih GmbH

Geliebte Köchin (The Taste of Things, La passion de Dodin Bouffant)
France/Belgium 2023

Opening 8 Feb 2024

Directed by: Anh Hung Tran
Writing credits: Marcel Rouff, Anh Hung Tran
Principal actors: Juliette Binoche, Benoît Magimel, Emmanuel Salinger, Patrick d'Assumçao, Galatéa Bellugi

Vietnamese writer-director Trần Anh Hùng’s passion (The Scent of Green Papaya, 1993’s unforgettable scent), should the occasion be ripe, is exploring the sensuality of food. His newest concoction, albeit with a thin main ingredient, is a visual banquet. Jonathan Ricquebourg’s sweeping, lavishly flowing cinematography follows hands picking fruit, soaking greens, whisking, and pulling piping hot beef-filled pans from the cavernous 19th century oven. Watching plumes of steam rise, we hear ingredients sizzling and the staccato of shifting utensils and bake/cookware. Garnishes are delicately added on this sumptuously served dish, based on Marcel Rouff’s 1920 novel, The Passionate Epicure: La Vie et la Passion de Dodin-Bouffant.

Seasoned cook Eugenie (Juliette Binoche) directs a quiet choreography of feast preparations with all-around assistant Violette (Galatéa Bellugi), as Dodin (Benoît Magimel) navigates prep work. Young Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire) helps them. Eugenie politely guides/instructs, and Pauline’s aptitude and exemplary taste buds are noted. Finally, Violette serves. Surprisingly, the guy in the kitchen is at the table. Entertaining four gourmet aficionados: Rabaz (Emmanuel Salinger), Grimaud (Patrick d'Assumçao), Magot (Jan Hammenecker), Beaubois (Frédéric Fisbach). Idle conversation accompanies the multi-course cuisine with une petite pause. When invited to the table, Eugenie reminds Dodin her “conversation” is the food itself; the men come to her. Clearly these two have a history in culinary artistic endeavors.

Their harmonious twenty-plus years’ relationship revolves around the palette and food, moving with the rhythm of the season’s expansions and contractions. Dodin’s comfortable country manor house provides ample room for Eugenie’s kitchen garden where she plucks freshness for each menu. The highly esteemed cook and renowned gourmet epicurean’s involvement is recognized in the culinary circuit. Then, Eugenie becomes ill, and Dodin seeks out delicacies to cook for her.

Geliebte Köchin’s characters stress the critical importance of ingredients, particularly the main ingredient, only to deliver a storyline too thin for the 135-minute runtime. The introductory sequence, at thirty minutes, is absorbing yet minimalistic in information. Binoche and Magimel’s performances are the binding agent; adding seasoning is Mario Battistel’s editing, Toma Baqueni’s production design, Nu Yên-Khê Tran’s costumes. Trần Anh Hùng won Best Director at Cannes Film Festival 2023, and La Passion de Dodin Bouffant is France’s submission for the 2024 Best International Film Oscar®. Make sure you eat before seeing the film’s satisfyingly good fare. (Marinell Haegelin)

The theaters below show films in their original language; click on the links for showtimes and ticket information.
Interviews with the stars, general film articles, and reports on press conferences and film festivals.
Subscribe to the free KinoCritics monthly email newsletter here.