Now we’re all more foodie-conscious than ever before, there’s never been a better time to revisit Denmark’s 1987 Oscar-winner, which enticingly suggests that even the most ascetic of palates can find sensual and spiritual affirmation in the glories of haute cuisine.
Adapted from a story by Karen Blixen (the author played by Meryl Streep in Out Of Africa), the story unfolds in windswept Jutland in the mid-1800s, where the daughters of a revered pastor refuse the suitors which come their way, and end up as spinsters keeping his memory alive in a regular prayer group. Enter Babette (Chabrol regular Stéphane Audran), who’s fled political strife in Paris, and offers herself as their housekeeper. They’re more used to salt-fish broth, but she’s later to provide them with a full-scale French banquet entwining everyone’s past fortunes. A cherishable fable about generosity in all its forms, this is a touching example of old-school storytelling at its most assured. A feast in every sense! (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)