(Cannes) Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel reunited after a 20-year absence for La passion de Dodin Bouffant, a love film set in old-fashioned French gastronomy, which whetted everyone’s appetite.

Revealed in Cannes 30 years ago thanks to The Smell of Green Papaya, a feature film winner of the Caméra d’or (awarded to the best first feature film, all sections combined), Tran Anh Hùng distinguished himself on Wednesday by presenting an appetizing film (to say the least!), inspired by a fictional character invented by the Franco-Swiss writer Marcel Rouff a century ago.

A bit like Le Festin de Babette, a drama by Gabriel Axel that marked international cinema in the 1980s, the Franco-Vietnamese filmmaker places gastronomy at the heart of his story. The first 20 or 30 minutes of La passion de Dodin Bouffant are moreover devoted to the preparation of a sumptuous meal – we think that dozens of guests are expected, there are so many things, but in the end there will only be five around. de la table – where Eugénie Chatagne (Juliette Binoche) has the opportunity to showcase her immense talent.

Inspired by a novel that Marcel Rouff published in 1924, entitled La vie et la passion de Dodin-Bouffant, gourmet, which begins with the death of one of the characters, Tran Anh Hùng had the happy idea to imagine what happened before this tragedy. Bringing together Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel on a film set, two actors who had not played opposite each other for 20 years, the filmmaker also evokes a special relationship between two people who have lived under the same roof for two decades. The fact that the two stars have already formed a “real” couple in life necessarily adds tones of truth to the case, at least, in the mind of the viewer.

There has already been talk of marriage between the two, but Eugenie has always resisted. The delicacy with which Tran Anh Hùng recounts the nature of this bond between two beings who have reached a more mature age is beautiful to see. The two actors, who are said to both excel in the kitchen, are believable through and through and deliver great compositions.

It should be noted that Pierre Gagnaire, three-star chef, acted as a consultant. After Club Zero, by Jessica Hausner, and her sect advocating a total absence of food, here is quite a contrast. Everything here is beautifully filmed, sublimely lit. The fluidity of the staging, which includes several sequence shots, also contributes to the success of the whole.

The notion of transmission is important here. Several references are made to an older chef, Antonin Carême (Talleyrand’s cook), as well as to another, Auguste Escoffier, whom Bouffant says “makes us dream of the future”. In the eyes of Tran Anh Hùng, it seemed important to give a precise image of the chain of geniuses of gastronomy during this period.

“Only thirteen years separate the death of Antonin Carême and the birth of Auguste Escoffier who, with César Ritz, was to build an empire of culinary art in Europe with their palaces – first in Monaco, then in London and finally in Paris,” explains the filmmaker in notes given to journalists.

“Escoffier and Ritz were the first to grasp the importance of the beauty of places, that of light, to serve as a setting for the kitchen. Even today, when they are going through an existential crisis, the greatest chefs in the world open Escoffier’s book to find inspiration and energy. This book remains their bible. »

The only downside about this work, which we will know on Saturday if it will have seduced the jury: to present a film that makes so many salivate to festival-goers who, for the most part, have not had time to have a meal worthy of the name since a week is a bit cruel. That’s it!