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The Figaro cinema screening: The Taste of Others, a choral masterpiece by the Jaoui-Bacri duo


Each month, in partnership with LaCinetek, Le Figaro offers a nugget of the seventh art. With this social comedy that has become cult, the tandem imposes a personal humor while auscultating French society in the manner of Claude Sautet.

It is a film from which one comes out with a heart full of tenderness. Even if there is still this little hint of sadness, this pinch of bitterness which means that we are not totally fooled by the proposed “happy ending”, when it does so much good.

Discover here LaCinetek’s September selection dedicated to iconic duets in cinema

When comes out on the screens The taste of Others, the 2000s are shaping up to be a maddening change in the millennium. However, with this formidable dramatic comedy (which collected 4 César, including that of the best film and a nomination for the Oscar for the best foreign film) the tandem Agnès Jaoui-Jean-Pierre Bacri shows that nothing really changes when it it is about things of the heart.

Under its choral film airs, The taste of Others asserts itself above all as a kind of Romeo and Juliet class struggle version. Where Claude Sautet knew how to immortalize France in the 1970s, with Vincent, François, Paul, and the others (1974), Jaoui and Bacri manage to establish themselves as the funny and sharp chroniclers of French society.

The plot of Taste of others features a provincial entrepreneur, Jean-Jacques Castella, played by a Jean-Pierre Bacri (tragically disappeared in January) more grumpy and touching than ever.

Little focused on culture, this slightly jaded SME boss leads a boring life in Rouen, stuck between his wife Angélique (Christiane Millet), his driver, a bit naive Bruno (Alain Chabat) and his new principled bodyguard Franck ( Gérard Lanvin) who has just been assigned to him, due to the upcoming signing of a large contract with Iranian businessmen.

While one evening the wife (Christiane Millet) of an SME boss (Jean-Pierre Bacri) drags him by force to the theater to see a play in verse by Jean Racine, suddenly he discovers, fascinated, his teacher of English in the role of Berenice. © Pathé 1999.

Jean-Pierre Bacri’s right-hand man, a somewhat contemptuous polytechnician, forces him to take English lessons taught by an actress, Clara (played by the wonderful Anne Alvaro). One evening his wife drags him by force to the theater to see a play by Jean Racine. While he is bored at a hundred cents an hour, suddenly, Bacri discovers, fascinated, his English teacher in the role of Berenice …

Jean-Pierre Bacri and Anne Alvaro in The taste of Others. © Pathé 1999.

Very great critical and public success when it was released (3.8 million viewers at the box office), The taste of Others marks an important turning point in the career of “Jabac” as affectionately nicknamed them the director Alain Resnais (with whom they will make Smoking / No Smoking according to Alan Ayckbourn, in 1993 and We know the song, in 1997).

This is indeed the first time that Agnès Jaoui has gone behind the camera. If the Jaoui-Bacri couple met in 1986 on the adaptation of the play The birthday by Harold Pinter, directed by Jean-Michel Ribes, it is gradually that they develop their inimitable style of comedy. Of Kitchen and outbuildings (1991), through A family resemblance (1994), the inescapable tandem of French cinema sets itself up as the kings of social satire, ridiculing the tics, codes and hypocrisies of the time, in all social circles.

The only string that is missing from their bow is that of making a film from A to Z. The taste of Others will provide them with the opportunity.

For the record, The taste of Others should have been a detective film. As the Jaoui-Bacri duo recounted in an interview given in 2013 to The Express.The truth, remembers Agnès Jaouiis that when we mark out too much from the start, in general, it is a failure and we give up. At the beginning, The taste of Others was supposed to be a detective film. We worked with these constraints for two months before letting go.“And Jean-Pierre Bacri to add:”There are still some elements: the driver, the bodyguard, the hash dealer … The imposed figures of the thriller tired us. When we let go of the form, what remains are the relationships between people. That’s what interests us, deep down“.

A superb and melancholy ballet bubbling with humanity

What also remains are the favorite themes of the duo. The observation of the power games between people is very present in this choral “drama”. There is of course the study of social characteristics. All the characters, served by outstanding actors, from Alain Chabat to Gérard Lanvin via Anne Alvaro are authentically endearing in their crossed paths, a superb and melancholy ballet bubbling with humanity, frustrations, or thwarted love enthusiasm. .

As of course, the dialogues are chiseled, precise, weighted. Each line rings true, in particular that of Jean-Pierre Bacri when he loses his temper against his wife, a former interior designer who has transformed their house into a “bonbonnière”.

Still today, The taste of Others dynamite cultural snobbery while remaining a concentrate of human comedy. Whether it’s an idealistic actress, an uneducated depressive boss, a gullible driver, a rigid bodyguard or a philosopher bistro owner, all are staged in situations where clumsiness, muffling and meanness will gradually change sides over the cultural awakening and love of Bacri.

Gérard Lanvin, Angès Jaoui and Alain Chabat in The taste of Others. © Pathé 1999.

The film emphasizes with great relevance that there are no tastes better than others … The bad or the good taste of some is above all the disgust of others. And what makes the triumph of “Jabac” twenty-two years after the release of their film, is that they make everyone agree thanks to their humor, which remains to him of an exquisite taste!

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