Presented Wednesday on the Croisette, the film follows the duo formed at the end of the nineteenth century by the gastronome Dodin (Benoît Magimel) and the cook Eugénie (Juliette Binoche), united by a personal and culinary complicity.

Fifty years after "La grande bouffe", Tran Anh Hung's feature film ("The Smell of Green Papaya") gives pride of place to gargantuan feasts, the preparation of which occupies a large place in the image. To make the whole thing believable, the director, who adapts a Swiss novel published in 1920, asked for one of the most famous French toques.

"Tran came to eat at my restaurant five or six years ago, one day when there was a stew à la carte (dish that gives its name to the English title of the film, editor's note). He liked his meal and he told me: +You know Pierre, I'm preparing a film, I'm adapting the book +Dodin-Bouffant+. Would you be interested in accompanying me on this story?+", Pierre Gagnaire told AFP.

A moment passes, without news, until a first work appointment: "I said: we will never get there, because the demand is enormous. It was much more complicated than I imagined," he recalls.

This profusion appears on the screen, where the dishes parade for 2H30, between meat, fish, omelettes or sauces, whose long preparation is filmed like a ballet.

No mess

"There was one thing for me that was fundamental and that made me enter the film: we had three mornings where I cooked freely. There, Tran filmed everything to get lots of footage. It sealed my friendship for him and the structure of what we could produce," the chef said.

"He listened to me. I told him: it's not consistent, it's not okay. Especially since Eugenie is a free cook, she is a woman who cooks with her sensations. So I tried to offer something authentic, sincere, modern. Because there is something very modern in the cooking of the film with these vegetables, the relationship with nature...", he adds.

On the set, one of his collaborators was present every day to prepare the dishes and came to him more punctually.

From l to r:French Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire, French-Vietnamese director Anh Hung Tran and French actors Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, May 25, 2023 © Valery HACHE / AFP

The result: a staggering number of dishes, including 80 omelettes, squares of veal, several turbot... But no mess!

"The film crew enjoyed it. There was not a crumb left!", jokes Pierre Gagnaire.

The two actors also played the game, including a half-day of training to appear the most credible on screen even if, he confides, "both cook, especially Benoît".

The chef, who cites "Ratatouille" and "Babette's Feast" among his favorite films on gastronomy, makes an appearance on the screen: "It will make a nice memory for my grandchildren," he jokes.

As for the show "Top Chef", which revealed chefs like Mory Sacko, Stéphanie Le Quellec or Jean Imbert (just appointed chef of Martinez), he imagines it inspired by the film for its next season: "They may ask the candidates to reinterpret a pot-au feu!".

© 2023 AFP