I won’t bother explaining what “Taste” is. It is more dreamy than a term like “about” can capture. The film is all animated – pacific, surveying, surreal. Three naked women ride motorbikes around a tiny motel room. The same women arrange a boxy television set on a top bunk while, in an adjoining room, a man lunges at a fourth woman. The women dragged the man (he was also naked) from room to room, being careful not to wake him while he was sleeping with a swordfish in his arms as long as he was. . A scene later, five of them are lifting the fish, cleaning it, for the meal we’ll see them eat. Later: karaoke.
“Taste” is set in Vietnam and the man I am referring to is Nigerian, Vietnamese woman and seems older than him. I tell you this because the movie doesn’t reveal much. It has a low quality. The man was an injured soccer player who was cut from the team, and is now settling to re-enact the matches in miniature, with bottle caps. I have been shooting with most of these films. It has a solid sensualist handle. It proceeds almost wordlessly. The camera does most of the talking. A pet pig does a lot of the rest. It is spare – mentally and physically.
The footage comes as a collection of images seemingly meant to reveal themselves according to cosmic logic or karma. The film begins at a beauty spa, where the man sleeps and performs massages with his hands and by standing on the backs of his clients. At some point, he and the women move into the rooms that occupy the center of the film. I call them rooms when the “vigilance” is more like. They bring the graves and wombs in mind. But also: specific art installation site. Yes, there was a stagnation: the whole group sat around on the floor picking vegetables, removing chicken, eating. It’s crafts, boutiques and gourmet. Also ambiguous, in the way that a title like “Taste” implies. Nothing underneath, no control over these images. A little bit of their beauty – the blue tones, billowing fabrics, the transition from large to cramped spaces, all natural flesh – go a long way. And the road here feels round.
You can feel director Le Bao pushing for the unusual – like having the man hold his penis while talking softly before using it on a woman in the following scene. You can also sense he is looking for some kind of humanity. Ultimately, grief sets the tone for this movie. All five members of the main cast – Olegunleko Ezekiel Gbenga, Khuong Thi Minh Nga, Le Thi Dung, Nguyen Thi Cam Xuan, Vu Thi Tham Thin – work with unrelenting sadness. Even a scene where they huddle in front of the camera and laugh is more like coping than anything I would call a reflection.
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Le is new to film making (this is his first role) but is not interested in cinema. He seems to have watched a lot of them, the best ones. By Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Carlos Reygadas. And maybe some of the dreamcatcher Naomi Kawase is pissed. The existence of the camera helps the video art of Nam June Paik. There is something here. It is only cooked. The cinematic philosophy surrounding these minimalist illusions depends on whether the images should be quality or not, as they always do with Weerasethakul and almost always with Reygadas. You have to work your magic to clear the ropes. Le gives us a shot of a hot air balloon that never meets the sky and another in which a rodent approaches a piece of land and then backs away: metaphor. He is not a magician yet. This movie is like a secret that he keeps.
Not rated. In Yoruba and Vietnamese, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. Watch on Mubi.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/16/movies/taste-review.html Review ‘Taste’: A slow, sensual psychedelic setting in Vietnam