The Taste Of Others

The Taste Of Others


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The French have always been unsentimental about sex. Also, they see the funny side.

In this ensemble piece about a factory owner who hates his life and an actress who is afraid of growing old, comic tension stretches beyond stereotype to an absurd and painful reality.

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Castella (Jean-Pierre Bacri), the self-made man, is a difficult boss, irascible and demanding. He may be uneducated in the arts and socially awkward, but he knows what he likes, which does not include smart young men with fancy degrees from Paris, like Weber (Xavier De Guillebon), who virtually runs his factory.

He lives in an over-decorated house, full of chintz and summer colours, with a wife who fusses over little things and her dog that bites people ("Always for a good reason"). His only pleasure is eating, but she won't allow that, not to any extreme, because of his high blood pressure. He has a bodyguard (Gerard Lanvin), who is on temporary hire, and a chauffeur (Alain Chabat), who drives his wife around.

Clara (Anne Alvaro), the actress, comes to see Castella at his office to give him English lessons, which he can't be bothered with and sends her away. A few nights later, he is dragged reluctantly to the theatre, where Clara has the lead, and he is captivated by her. Immediately afterwards the English lessons are continued and he becomes infatuated, ingratiating himself with her arty friends, who treat him as a joke.

Meanwhile, the chauffeur, who has a fiancee in America, has a one-night-stand with Manie (Agnes Jaoui), the barmaid at the bistro where the theatre folk go, after which the bodyguard takes over on a more permanent basis. Manie doesn't trust men, but needs them, admitting to Clara that's she's attracted to the wrong kind of guy.

The film works on so many levels. The script by Jaoui and Bacri is subtle, witty and intelligent. Bacri's performance is a masterpiece of comic understatement and Jaoui, who directs for the first time, ensures that every strand of this emotional pot-pourri is treated with equal importance. Clara's confused feelings, the chauffeur's musical ambition, Manie's tough love, Castella's wife's vacant days and the bodyguard's difficulty with commitment live and breathe.

Reviewed on: 23 May 2001
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A factory owner falls in love with an actress, causing a mixture of hilarity and regret.
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Director: Agnes Jaoui

Writer: Agnes Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri

Starring: Anne Alvaro, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Alain Chabat, Agnes Jaoui, Gerard Lanvin, Brigitte Catillon

Year: 2000

Runtime: 135 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


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