Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
The most prize-laden French film of the year is a tangy cocktail of the funny and the tragic-but-true; a dramatic comedy of manners in which a successful, kind and essentially uncultured CEO falls in love with an unsuccessful, uncharitable and highly cultured actress. A recent nominee for the best foreign-language Oscar and winner of four Césars, the French equivalent of the Oscar (including Best Picture and Best Screenplay), The Taste of Others has been enormously popular at the French box office. — BG
Castella is a wealthy industrialist, married, temporarily inconvenienced by the presence of a bodyguard while a sensitive business deal is ironed out, but otherwise no more disgruntled than the rest of us. In his own world, he is king.
A dutiful – groundbreaking – trip to the theatre is a revelation. It’s not the play itself which moves him, but the lead actress, Clara. Neither young nor especially glamorous – she’s stuck in subsidised theatre – Clara touches him so deeply, she seems to open up horizons he’s never even dreamed of: a whole new world of art, literature, philosophy and beauty… a world in which Castella simply doesn’t fit.
A tremendous critical and popular hit in France, Le goût des autres (literally: Other People’s Taste) is a culture clash comedy with the emphasis on ‘culture’. Agnès Jaoui – making her directorial début with a script co-written with long-time partner Bacri – doesn’t aim for laugh-out-loud hysterics, but the droll slow burn, subtle ironies and wry observation. There’s a lovely, funny-sad sequence in which the industrialist shaves off his moustache to impress his muse – but it takes ages before anyone notices. The intellectual and the philistine: Jaoui is a fan of Woody Allen, who has regularly flipped this particular coin (most recently with Tracey Ullman in Small Time Crooks), but it’s been a while since Allen made such an elegant, nuanced and sympathetic movie as this. The film works as a one-sided love-story, and finds time to flesh out half-a-dozen peripheral characters (the bodyguards, a barmaid, Castella’s wife and sister), each in his/her own way as lovelorn and alone. An eminently civilised entertainment, this is the sort of thing at which French cinema excels. — Tom Charity, Time Out, 23/5/01