Babette's Feast (1987)

Babette's Feast (1987), directed by Gabriel Axel.

When I saw this years ago it seemed -- apart from the sumptuous meal that I suppose everyone remembers -- a bit bleak, even grim. Even then I saw the contrast between the cold Jutland north and the sunny French south, the austere Protestant village enlivened by a Catholic master chef, and the mysterious way in which bodily delights can produce spiritual reconciliation and even exaltation. But in the end it seemed pretty sad.

It is more hopeful now. The intertwined lives, the way things work out. Worse than getting old is being old and bitter, but we see it doesn't have to be that way.

That sensual pleasures may be spritually uplifting: aren't we trained to believe the flesh is corrupting? But it need not be so. Most people (I hope!) experience sex as both inner and shared joy, although we hardly ever see it presented as such in the movies. Sex has many difficult dimensions; food is safer. None of our characters are gluttons; if their pleasures were of a different sort most filmmakers would show them as more obsessed.

More simply: "The things that make us happy make us wise" -- John Crowley, Little, Big.

Here's an article by someone who cooked Babette's cailles en sarcophage.

Criterion Blu-ray.