Oct-Dec 2010 Screenings
The Taste of Others
(Le Goût Des Autres)
1999 - Agnes Jaoui - 112 mins - France
Fri 15 Nov 2002 at 8.30pm
Joyce's Lounge, Tuamgraney, Co. Clare
Midnight Court Rating: 5.0 (1 votes)
Storyline: Castella, a factory owner trapped in the repetitive machinery of his own success, doesn’t realize he’s longing for love and excitement in his life. One night his wife, Angélique, drags him to a performance of Racine’s Bérénice. He is unexpectedly and utterly captivated--not so much by the play as by the lead actress, Clara. He sees the play again. At his factory, where the staff works to clinch a big deal with a foreign firm, a consultant compels him to learn English. His instructor turns out to be Clara. He attempts to get closer to her; she rebuffs him. He tries to mix with her circle of friends--actors, artists, gay men--but finds they inhabit separate social spheres. His bodyguard, Moreno, takes up with Manie, the barmaid at the bistro where Clara and her friends hang out. Manie and Moreno embark on an affair, but can’t seem to find any common ground after their initial infatuation: she’s a free spirit; he’s an old-fashioned patriarch.
...or quite literally 'the taste of others'. After having swept the boards at last year's César awards and garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film, Agnès Jaoui's film is all the more impressive given that it is her debut. She has already scripted, along with fellow actor Jean-Pierre Bacri, Resnais's Smoking/No Smoking and On connaît la chanson, as well as Cédric Klapisch's wonderful Un air de famille, and the carefully balanced mixture of one-liners and profound meditations on the human character that typified those films is replicated to great effect here. For while this essentially middle-brow comedy of manners may hide at its centre a rather depressing moral, true to this kind of social comedy the moral is tinged with wry happiness.
Jean-Pierre Bacri is the Rouen industrialist who falls for Anne Alvaro, an actress with whom he becomes transfixed. Gérard Lanvin is Bacri's bodyguard who in turns falls in love with Jaoui's Manie, a drug-dealing barmaid. Outside this central quartet are numerous other examples of relationships and friendships that are somehow or other dominated by a sense of cultural snobbism and oscillating power structures. Bacri's wife has decorated the house 'like a chocolate box', all garish pinks and floral kaleidoscopes. Alvaro's fellow actors ridicule Bacri in an excruciatingly embarrassing scene because he thinks Ibsen is a comic, whilst Wladimir Yordanoff sees Bacri's wealth yet lack of cultural nous as an excuse to get him to buy soulless modernist tableaux.
Jaoui has readily acknowledged her debt to Woody Allen. She screened many of his films before shooting and his artistic imprimatur is readily identifiable. The ensemble bar scenes are impeccably choreographed and the clever use of classical music and drama lends a further layer to the film, highlighting its impenetrability as well as its beauty. The shift between long, fluid takes and short, tightly edited one-on-one confrontations is also engaging, moving the action (and the moral) from micro- to macro-meaning in a single shot. What elevates the film is the acting (another debt to Allen). Rarely in contemporary French cinema has so much acting talent been so harnessed and fleshed out. The characterisation is initially sketched and then broadly painted; Bacri's love-lorn philistine may hog the best lines, but poignant cameos like his downtrodden sister or his wide-eyed, unassuming chauffeur helps bolster and reinforce a truly engaging chamber-piece this is in many respects cruel yet ultimately hints at something more uplifting and invigorating. Indeed, the conclusion brings little in the form of romantic closure or reconciliation; instead an awareness from the audience that French provincial bourgeois existence is rigidly hierarchical, and that despite its Pygmalion pretensions, neither we nor the protagonists can ever really understand the 'taste of others'.
Starring Agnes Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri and Brigitte Catillon. Directed by Agnes Jaoui. Written by Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri. Produced by Charles Gassot. An Artistic License release. Drama. French language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 108 min.
“The Taste of Others” does what the French do best--craft romantic dramas that ring true and offer wisdom and insight into the relationships between men and women.
Chief among them are Castella (Jean-Pierre Bacri), a likable boor who finds himself attracted to Clara (Anne Alvaro), a 40-year-old actress who has given up on ever finding love. At the same time, her friend Manie (Agnes Jaoui) begins a relationship with Castella’s tough bodyguard, Moreno (Gerard Lanvin), who has vowed to never settle down with any woman. Then there’s Castella’s neurotic wife, Beatrice (Brigitte Catillon), who prefers animals to people, and his driver, Deschamps (Alain Chabat), who has romantic problems of his own. The linkages between the characters are never forced and the performances are uniformly pleasurable. Some of the people, such as Beatrice, could have been sketched in more depth and Jaoui’s direction is somewhat clunky but this sweet film will leave you smiling.
This witty, well-acted and unsentimental romantic comedy portrays the gulf that divides not just different classes, but different social milieus. In her directorial debut, Jaoui keeps her style simple and unadorned, focussing on the actors and the low-key drama of their relationships. A runaway hit in France!
Verdicts from the Midnight Court
Two worlds collide,with far reaching consequences for Castella and his entourage.
A ruthless and inconsiderate businessman is totally overwhelmed by his romantic attachment and is reckless in his pursuit.
He is prepared to suffer ridicule and the break up of his marriage,such is the depth of his attraction to his english teacher.
Anybody who has been in his situation would have some sympathy even though he is not a likeable character.
I hope that Agnes Jaoui carries on making such excellent films
Wed 13 Oct 2004
Internet Movie Database