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HomeMovie​Take Time To Savor It: Trần Anh Hùng on The Taste of...

​Take Time To Savor It: Trần Anh Hùng on The Taste of Things | Interviews


As a filmmaker, you’ve often depicted cooking as a love language. From where does this interest originate? 

I think that it comes from my childhood, and from my mother. My parents were workers, and we were not rich. The place where I lived, in a remote town in the center of Vietnam, was very ugly; everything that I saw around me was not beautiful. The only beauty that I could see was in my mother’s kitchen. When I think about the past, I always think of that. It was a dark place, with a wet floor and a charcoal fire, and walls made of tin. You could hear everything happening in the house next to you. There was an opening in the roof, to let the light in. When my mother would come home, after going to the market, you could see all these colors: the fish, the fruits, the vegetables. All of this was beautiful. And when she cooked for us, at the end, it was also very beautiful, because you’d see what she’d made and all its colors. That gave me my first education about aesthetics, I think; it comes from that. 

That’s why, later on, food was always something that was important for me. I like simple food, because of that period, when we didn’t have money to have rich food. Years ago, I discovered that, in Italian cuisine, they have colatura, which has the same flavor as Vietnamese fish sauce. When you taste it, it has the same flavor, and they make it the same way but with more precise Italian methods. It’s expensive, perhaps 200 times more expensive than Vietnamese fish sauce. I bought some. At home, I took a piece of pork belly, boiled it, and then I cut and sliced it thinly, and with my children and my wife we tried to taste the difference between the Italian fish sauce and Vietnamese fish sauce. At the end, we agreed the colatura was much better, because they had made it in small batches and aged it in oak wood barrels. Everything came together slowly, and it turned out better as a result.

In an interview conducted around the release of “The Scent of Green Papaya,” you’re quoted as saying, “Love empties servitude of its alienating content.” The relationship between Dodin and Eugénie, both of whom express their love through cooking, feels reflective of this idea as well. Their dynamic is one of profound love and equality. 

There’s nothing in the film that I wanted to be very political. This is not at all the case. It’s only about individuals, how they meet each other, and how they do something together that creates a bond between them. If this bond is of a strong quality, because of how they both are as human beings, then that’s enough for me. I don’t want to [impose] greater ideas onto it; it’s about the person-to-person relationships. I have the feeling that, when you spend a lot of time with someone at work, and especially if you’re doing creative work, then you cannot avoid the creation of this bond. You develop feelings for the other person. It’s something that is very natural. The film is more about how to keep this feeling of love alive through time. 

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