Une Affaire de Gout

Sitting through co-writer/director Bernard Rapp’s delicious thriller “Une Affaire de Gout” reminded me how much better French filmmakers are at creating suspense. While American thrillers are almost always plot driven, most French thrillers are character driven. Like “With a Friend Like Harry,” “Une Affaire de Gout” is about how people react to each rather than to extraneous plot devices like car chases and explosions.

You won’t find any such fat on the lean screenplay by Gilled Taurand and Rapp, a tasty character study that goes from bad to worse, creating an unnerving sense of dread with each bite.

“Une Affaire de Go–t” begins at the end, relying on flashbacks to bring the story up to date. It’s here where we learn Nicholas Riviere (Jean-Pierre Lorit), a handsome young man, has been charged with the murder of a rich industrialist. This early revelation doesn’t spoil the suspense because the film isn’t a whodunit. The script, based on the novel by Philippe Balland, is more interested in why he did it.

When we first meet Nicholas, he’s a temporary waiter at a posh French restaurant. Moments away from being fired, Nicholas runs into rich industrialist Delamont (Bernard Giraudeau), an older man who suffers from numerous allergies and phobias, some real, some imagined.

When Nicholas correctly identifies the ingredients in a dish, Delamont agrees to hire him as his personal taster.

At first, Nicholas can’t believe his luck. Having bounced from one job to another, Nicholas is ready for a little responsibility. He’s even willing to give up smoking in order to keep his palette clean, and agrees to be on call 24-hours-a-day. It’s not long before Delamont is dressing Nicholas and buying him expensive gifts like a car.

Nicholas’ girlfriend Beatrice (Florence Thomassin) suspects the obvious, but Delamont assures Nicholas that his intentions and attention have nothing to do with love or affection. The more Delamont draws Nicholas away from his life and friends, the more we the audience are left helpless to sit and watch as Delamont reveals his true motives.

As the writers skillfully piece the puzzle together, it becomes clear that Delamont is molding Nicholas into a younger version of himself, the ultimate conceit for someone with more money than time on his hands. The suspense escalates as we wonder how far Nicholas will follow Delamont down that dark and twisted path.

As Nicholas reflects on all of this during the opening interrogation, we begin to see a different picture emerge. Even though it’s made clear from the start that Nicholas killed Delamont, we’re never sure who the real victim is. The writers play as many mind games on the audience as Delamont plays on Nicholas.

It’s obvious that Delamont employees Nicholas because he can. He really doesn’t need a personal taster, but since he has the money and power to have one, why not? Nicholas believes that Delamont is doing him a favor, but the closer the two become the more we understand that Nicholas actually likes the master/servant relationship.

Nicholas may not like all of the ground rules, but he finds excitement and adventure in his new station. He gets to live a life he could only dream of, even if it means strictly obeying the rules of class. Just how far Nicholas is willing to go to please his boss makes for an explosive third act that brings us back to the beginning of the film.

Even though his character comes off as a modern monster, there’s also nobility in Giraudeau’s Delamont. There has to be. There’s no way “Une Affaire de Gout” would work unless we believed Delamont was more than just a predator. Giraudeau effectively layers the character so we’re never sure who or what we’re dealing with.

That goes double for Nicholas, who is so blinded by his new found good fortune that he refuses to take a good, hard look at the reality of the situation. Lorit is extremely convincing as a man who is more naive than stupid. When Beatrice tries to warn him, he sees her pleas more as jealousy than as honest concern. Lorit is so likeable as Nicholas that we find ourselves rooting for him even when he makes extremely bad decisions.

As Beatrice, Florence Thomassin delivers a sympathetic performance as the film’s voice of reason. She’s our eyes and voice, the only person capable of helping Nicholas escape his self-made prison.

Even though “Une Affaire de Gout” is only Rapp’s second film, he displays an impressive maturity in terms of character development and pacing. He knows exactly where to put the camera for maximum effect, and rarely relies on cinematic tricks to draw us into the story. Rapp trusts his actors and dialogue too much to cheat us, and the result is a satisfying thriller that works on many levels.

Imagine Barbet Schroder’s “Single White Female” without all of the Hollywood histrionics and you wind up with “Une Affaire de Gout.”


“Une Affaire de Gout” dishes up healthy dose of the creeps


Bernard Giraudeau, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Florence Thomassin. Directed by Bernard Rapp. Not Rated.


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