Nicholas Riviere (Jean-Pierre Lorit, "Red," "Alice and Martin") is an unambitious young man working temporarily as a waiter when he runs into Delamont (Bernard Giraudeau, "Water Drops on Burning Rocks," "Ridicule") a wealthy entrepreneur. Delamont challenges Nicholas to identify the ingredients of an amuse bouche, decides he has intelligence in his eyes, and makes him an overgenerous offer for a strange job - to be his personal taster in "A Matter of Taste."
Cowriter (with Gilles Taurand, "Time Regained")/director Bernard Rapp tells his tale in flashbacks from a present day investigation into an unknown crime. While there have been many films which investigate the transference of personality, there have been fewer on the subjugation of it. Rapp's psychological thriller plays like an inverted version of Joseph Losey's "The Servant" as seen through the gorgeous rot of Peter Greenaway's films.
Although Delamont has an aversion to cheese and fish, it soon becomes clear that he wants more from Nicholas than to taste his food. As he seduces Nicholas with access to his monied lifestyle, his demands on the man slowly increase. His offering stipulation that Nicholas quit smoking segues into Nicholas not eating any foods he dislikes, then more, as he tries to recreate Nicholas in his own image. Delamont's displeasure is shown harshly, parentally, building an interdependence between the two that's like, but not actually, a love affair.
Nicholas' girlfriend Beatrice (Florence Thomassin) provides the audience's point of view, watching in horror as Nicholas becomes consumed by the industrialist, trying to figuratively shake some sense into him until she realizes she literally no longer knows this man.
Giraudeau smoothly creates a cinematic monster, a polished devil of refinement but no feeling. Lorit has a more difficult arc to follow, as the film's one failure is its inability to make Nicholas' seduction totally believable, but he makes a fine mirror for Giraudeau.
The film's fine production design by Francois Comtet features many extraordinary gustatory tableaux and the contrasts between Alpine skiing and desert hermitage. Cinematography by Gerard de Battista ("Venus Beauty Institute") is strikingly crisp. Rapp's direction builds a sickly, sinister suspense.
"A Matter of Taste" is a deliciously insidious thriller.
Robin's review coming soon!
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