The Taste of Things and Perfect Days find inspiration in the simplicity of everyday life

These international films demonstrate cinema’s universal language of shared human experiences

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Bitters End

By: Kiara Co, Peak Associate

The Taste of Things and Perfect Days, a French and Japanese film respectively, are two uplifting 2023 releases with simple yet moving stories. Although I watched them both with English subtitles as they were not English films, they exemplified the universal language of cinema, which allows audiences from all cultures to connect on the shared emotional reactions and experiences of characters.

Set in 1889 in a French countryside, The Taste of Things (Le Passion de Dodin Bouffant in French) is about a cook named Eugenie and her boss, Dodin, whose bond grows over many days spent rigorously cooking in the kitchen. Eventually, Eugenie commits to cooking for Dodin, his friends, and family. 

The film takes place almost entirely during one day in the kitchen. Although this seems like a mundane setting, exploring this kitchen in detail and how the characters move through it was anything but. For instance, I noticed when the windows and sometimes doors were open. In these scenes, sunlight hit the right spot inside the kitchen — on a dish, or metallic pot or pan — which looked so naturally scenic. The repertoire of dishes, from the ingredients to the plating, looked so easy to make when whipped up by professional chefs and gave me the urge to make them, such as bone marrow soup.

The film gets into the mindset of the slowness of a pastoral setting in 19th century France, where food is made from scratch, including the preparation of a chicken from outside. It made me think about all the steps involved in preparing food that we often don’t see in today’s society. Food is presented as a love language.

From the comedic moments to watching two people connect over shared passions, this film was heartwarming. A Taste of Things demonstrates how not only eating food but the process and art of cooking brings people together. We see the joint effort involved in cooking the dishes and how each dish requires precision and careful selection of ingredients. Just as the dishes come together with thought and care, Dodin and Eugenie infused their hearts and souls into their food and each other. 

Taking us back to the present day, Perfect Days is a drama about Hirayama, a public toilet cleaner in the city of Tokyo. Hirayama lives a life that is repetitive and simple. He listens to music in his van and reads every night before going to bed. At the beginning of the film, we see him doing his job while people go in and out of the public washrooms. They don’t consider Hirayama’s presence. One man knocks off the caution sign for slippery floors and doesn’t bother to put it back up or apologize. 

In juxtaposition to this, we see Hirayama’s compassionate acts, such as helping a lost young boy find his mom and allowing a young girl to listen to one of his cassette tapes. Seeing the life of Hirayama, we see an often unrepresented and unpleasant side of Tokyo and its treatment of lower class workers. Hirayama also shows us a calming and satisfying way of living in this city, instead of the big bright city life.

The title having the word “perfect” is what stood out to me. When people think of the word “perfect” or “perfect days,” they think of something outstanding and exciting. But for Hirayama, that does not have to be the case at all for having perfect days in his life. Everybody has their own version of a “perfect life.” 

Perfect Days and The Taste of Things reminded me that there is beauty in everyday life, and inspired me to spread positive energy and appreciation toward the people with whom I share the experiences of being human. The settings made me feel comfortable, and taught me that it’s worth looking for beauty everywhere, even in a kitchen or 9-to-5 job. I felt inspired to seek my own version of a happy life immersed in the present moment the way Hirayama, Eugenie, and Dodin do. 

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