Sunday, March 30, 2008

Remembering Babette

I must have seen it in Berkeley, 1986 or 1987 when it first came out. Probably alone in the afternoon, on a grey day off the main street. When asked my most treasured film experience, I would always say: Babette’s Feast. I recalled these twenty years only one line however: an artist is never poor. Babette utters this phrase in the last minutes of the film. I remembered the starchy, cold mood of the villagers. How they were startled into the recognition of good food and profound experience.

Thanks to netflix and a little spare time, I revisited this magical and amazing film. I kept it almost a month, a little uneasy to see it again. Would I find it lacking in some way?

It was better. Or rather, I was more open to its every measure, its precise sensuality. I had forgotten the glorious tender moments in making Babette’s dinner. On first viewing, I had not noticed the pact of the elders to ignore the food. What I had taken away twenty years ago had sustained me in some way: an artist is never poor. But this time I heard something else. I saw so much more. I understood so much more.

When the beautiful chef decides to stay with the old women, I felt my kinship renewed with this simple, but deeply moving film. "Throughout the world sounds one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me the chance to do my very best."

I will have to find the short story by Isak Dinesen now.

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