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:: The Taste Of Others (Le Gout Des Autres)

The Taste of Others is the feature film debut of critically acclaimed French actor Agnes Jaoui, who wrote the screenplay with husband Jean Pierre Bacri. What has come of this collaboration is a wonderful film, simple and yet extraordinary in its themes, raw and honest in its performances and absolutely perfect in its execution. Although defined as a romantic comedy, it rebukes any attempt at such simplistic classifications. It is one of those films that come about only very rarely, it makes you laugh out loud but then walk away and think deeply for a long time after.

Without wanting to give too much away, the story centres on wealthy businessman, Castella (Jean Pierre Bacri) and his strung out wife Angelique (Christiane Millet). Castella, after going to a local theatre production of Racine’s “Berenice” in which his niece performs, he is surprisingly moved by the performance of Clara (Anne Alvaro) who he has, until then, known only as his English tutor. Something is deeply shaken up within Castella who develops an insatiable fascination with Clara and all that her world embodies. He has, however, no knowledge of the people and the things with which she surrounds herself with, actors and artists, theatre and exhibitions.

As he tries to enter her world in order to learn more about her but also about himself, he discovers that there are knowledge and social prerequisites of which previously he has had no exposure and no one is particularly willing to assist him with. His confronting frankness is greeted with condescension and ridicule.

Alongside this lie other characters on the periphery of this story. While Castella’s concentration is focused elsewhere, his highly paid adviser desperately attempts to get Castella to change his business methods and secure a lucrative deal with some Middle East businessmen. Then there is Castella’s bodyguard, Moreno (Gerard Lanvin) and his chauffeur, Deschamps (Alain Chabat) who both have a fling with the same woman, Maine, played by Agnes Jaoui herself, who also happens to be Clara’s best friend. Then there is Angelique, who in a desperate need for a purpose and some contact aside from Castella and her cute but menacing dog, latches on to Castella’s sister, imposing her skills (or lack of) as an interior decorator forcefully upon her. These stories are beautifully intertwined with the main story coming together only at the very end.

Any attempt to reduce the story to a simplified outline feels like an insult to the writers intention. The script is written with such honesty and explores the complexity of the relationship between people, their tastes and therefore their taste in other people. It also explores how this taste, informs the way people treat each other, their expectations and assessments of one another and the difficulties and contradictions that result from forming friendships and other relationships on this basis. The film does so by acknowledging the contradictions inherent within people, without reducing them to a sum of their tastes but more importantly by recognising their own individual humour and compassion.

The film leaves you with an all round feeling of satisfaction. It makes you walk away and think back, not only the many, very funny moments in the film, but also on the awkward ones that were so honest and touching. The film also makes you think about your own tastes and how this has informed the sort of people you surround yourself with. It makes you think about your life and the people within it, how you see them and how they must see you, how you treat each other and the moments in time that have shaped this. This is a wonderful film; not only very funny but with something important to say.

Screening at Cinema Como and Cinema Nova