“THE POT-AU-FEU” | Cannes

In mid-19th century France, Eugénie has worked for twenty years alongside the famous gastronome Dodin. She’s an expert at preparing French dishes, poring over the writings of Antonin Carême, a pastry chef from the same era, preparing her foods, adding a touch of novelty and carefully choosing radishes and carrots from the vegetable garden outside Dodin’s home. Over time, a passion develops between the two of them and from their mutual love of gastronomy new dishes are born.

Vietnamese-French filmmaker Tran Anh Hung chose the last few years of this working relationship. As Dodin Benoît Magimel is benevolent and princely and Juliette Binoche’s Eugénie is competent and, indeed, passionate. The kitchen where they work is vast and well-equipped, it’s a space where the cultinary arts manifest themselves.

The scenes in which food is being prepared, by Eugénie, for Dodin and his lucky friends, are long, Tran Anh Hung taking particular care to show the exhaustive process of french dishes preparation.

In fact, I believe I’ve never before seen such long takes with just hands transfering vegetables from pan to dish, consommé and sauce reduction being done, it’s eventful without being eventful, fun to watch, for a while, and then I started wondering why these scenes of food prep are so long. Then, the realization that the food, bien sûr, is the bankable star here. Dodin and Eugénie are in service of French gastronomy. Once I grew used to this concept, the film felt accomplished and filling. There was heavy input from the milieu of the French gastronomy to ensure realism and accuracy, with Pierre Gagnaire, high priest of France’s haute cuisine serving as advisor to the film. He also makes an appearance in the film. During the press conference, for which he was present, Gagnaire said, “this film is the perfect reflection of what food, creativity, emotion but also, exactness, are.”

Very enjoyable!

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