Babette’s Feast (1987, Gabriel Axel)

Lovely natural-light drama spanning many years in the lives of two puritanical Danish sisters. Muchache Man Lorens loved one of them, and the following year a French singer loved the other, but the sisters end up with only each other – and French cook Babette (played by the great Stephane Audran of so many Chabrol films).

sister Filippa and Mr. Papin the opera singer:

sister Martine and Lorenz:

Eventually it’s revealed that Babette was head chef at a world-class French restaurant, and after preparing the sisters’ very simple meals for thirty years, she spends her lottery winnings on one extravagant dinner for the sisters and their church friends (including a visiting Mustache Man Lorens).

Katy and I liked it. We watched on Valentine’s Day, coincidentally the week director Gabriel Axel died, and during the first earthquake I’ve felt while living in Atlanta. Adapted from a Karen Blixen story. IMDB claims it’s the current pope’s favorite movie.

M. Le Fanu:

We can agree, at any rate, that Audran’s performance is serene and authoritative. Could the woman she is playing have been based on a once living person? At bottom, one never really knows where stories come from, especially the good ones. Dinesen’s story has an absolute “rightness” about it that we recognize from classical fairy tales. Its tone, its humor, its kindness, its flashes of sardonic wit, the ease and confidence of its storytelling—all these attributes seem, at times, self-perpetuating, and independent of mere human agency. It is as if the best stories, miraculously, write themselves. Axel’s film manages to capture this anonymous and folklorish quality. Faithful to the story, he has made grace visible, and given us, in addition, a wonderful lesson in courtesy.

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