With The Pion of Dodin Bouffant, France is banking on culinary tradition to conquer the Oscars

Tran Anh Hung’s film, shunned by critics and the public, is preselected for the March 2024 ceremony.

On tour in New York, filmmaker Tran Anh Hung and star chef Pierre Gagnaire praise the “culinary arts» French in their film The Pion of Dodin Bouffant, pre-selected for the Oscars. An aesthetic work shunned in France (less than 180,000 admissions in three weeks), indigestible even according to certain critics, but which wants to promote “French culture” internationally.

Read alsoOur review of The Pion of Dodin Bouffant: taste buds of the nation

Price of staged at the Cannes Film Festival in May, the feature film makes “tribute to my country which welcomed me when I was 12 years old», Declared in an interview with AFP Tran Anh Hung, refugee in France in 1975 after the Vietnam War. The feature film by this Frenchman of Vietnamese origin, known for The Smell of Green Papaya And Cyclowas released in France at the beginning of November and features a late 19th century duet between the gastronome Dodin, played by Benoît Magimel, and the cook Eugénie, played by Juliette Binoche, united by a loving and culinary complicity.

Under its American title The Taste of Things, the film will be released in the United States on February 14, a month before the Oscars where it is pre-selected in the best international film category. It was presented Tuesday evening in New York by the Villa Albertine, the cultural arm of French diplomacy.

“Salute the French spirit”

Teenager “amazed” over there “French culture“, the 60-year-old filmmaker said he had been looking for “20 years a subject on cooking» and that he wanted “make a film about art” Who “awakens a poetry that touches deeply» the viewer. With this very aesthetic work, the artist also wanted to salute “the French spirit“. “I chose culinary arts, not painting, not music», he explained to AFP about this adaptation of a 1920 Swiss novel by Marcel Rouff. On screen, the feature film therefore gives pride of place to the preparation of gargantuan feasts.

The international star chef, Pierre Gagnaire, 73, was the culinary advisor. Three stars in the Michelin Guide (Hotel Balzac in Paris), the restaurateur has other establishments in Paris, Aix-en-Provence, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and Dubai. He is present in a chic New York brerie and appears on French television in the show Top chef.

In the kitchens, we build things and defend our culture

Pierre Gagnaire

In the kitchens, we build things and defend our culture», Declared to AFP Pierre Gagnaire, who came with Tran Anh Hung to promote their film in the United States, before the selection and nomination stages in December and January for the Oscars ceremony on March 10, 2024, in Los Angeles. The pion of Dodin Bouffant had been pre-selected in September to represent France at the Oscars in a list of five French feature films, which included the last Palme d’Or at Cannes, Anatomy of a fall by Justine Triet. This director took advantage of the Cannes scene to criticize the French government’s policy on culture and pensions.

A film that does not have good press in France

Dodin Bouffant did not convince Figaro (a writing “emphatic and stuffy” to the dialogues “without flavor or spiciness”), nor to World (“Indigestible stew), nor Parisian (movie “above ground, out of age, almost sickening“) nor at Les Inrocks (“bombastic celebration of the myth of French gastronomy, where food meets rancid conservatism“).

HAS “those who criticize the film», Pierre Gagnaire responded Tuesday evening, scathingly, that “it’s the slowness that makes it beautiful“. “Today, we are a bit in the “quickly done well” whereas it takes time» cinema and cooking, says the chef.

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