A MATTER OF TASTE
directed by Bernard Rapp with Bernard Giraudeau, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Jean-Pierre L页d, and Florence Thomassin runs Feb. 1-7 at Varsity
IN BERNARD RAPP'S sleek French psychological thriller A Matter of Taste, sinister, Howard Hughes-ish business magnate Fr餩ric Delamont (Bernard Giraudeau) takes one look at Nicolas (Jean-Pierre Lorit) and decides, after months of searching, that the temp waiter is the only one to fill a high-paid position as his official food taster. (You believe him, because Lorit has just the right combination of yearning pride and handsomeness, and because Giraudeau has a cold blue-eyed stare that could bend metal.) Things Will Go Terribly Wrong, we know, since we meet Nicolas—first bloodied and then behind bars—through that hoary but stalwart genre device that has him reflecting on his current woes to a prison psychologist. (A distractingly old Jean-Pierre L页d shows up to question the other players as a dogged magistrate).
Nicolas ends up not only tasting Delamont's food but falling under the spell of his privilege. He sacrifices his own life and bohemian friends to spend time experiencing ever more decadent pleasures on behalf of the paranoid tycoon; he even skydives and relates the thrill via walkie-talkie. Nicolas' independent girlfriend, B顴rice (a fierce Florence Thomassin), sees through the seduction, and when she has a chance to confront the tycoon about the 60,000-franc extravagance that is Nicolas' job, she doesn't mince words.
"For that price, do you fuck?" she spits at him.
"I've never fancied boys," he retorts calmly. "You're barking up the wrong tree."
Well, not exactly, she isn't, but Rapp and his co-screenwriter, Gilles Taurand (who wrote the magnificent coming-of-age drama Wild Reeds), moon over the homoeroticism without getting sidetracked by the trembling horror of a possible clinch. Contrary to something "daring" and American like, say, Fight Club, Rapp's film doesn't seem to be shuddering about the loss of machismo so much as deliciously dreading the easy debasement of free will. A Matter of Taste gets a hard-on over the ease with which men will toss away their values for a dirty soup篮 of power; it finds kink in compromise. It'll be a cold day on Clint Eastwood's ranch before Hollywood produces a film that features one male lead tempting another with "Come taste my foot." What finally gives this film its nasty little kick is that when Giraudeau dares his disciple to kneel and start licking, you sense the denigrated young man would probably like nothing better.