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In 19th century Denmark, two adult sisters live in an isolated village with their father, who is the honored pastor of a small Protestant church that is almost a sect unto itself. Although they each are presented with a real opportunity to leave the village, the sisters choose to stay with their father, to serve to him and their church. After some years, a French woman refugee, Babette, arrives at their door, begs them to take her in, and commits herself to work for them as maid/housekeeper/cook. Sometime after their father dies, the sisters decide to hold a dinner to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth. Babette experiences unexpected good fortune and implores the sisters to allow her to take charge of the preparation of the meal.
For more about Babette's Feast and the Babette's Feast Blu-ray release, see Babette's Feast Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 21, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Gabriel Axel
Writer: Gabriel Axel
Starring: Stéphane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Birgitte Federspiel, Jarl Kulle, Bibi Andersson, Jean-Philippe Lafont
» See full cast & crew
Babette's Feast Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 21, 2013
Winner of Oscar Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Danish director Gabriel Axel's "Babettes gæstebud" a.k.a "Babbette's Feats" (1987) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye. The supplemental features on the disc include a new video interview with actress Stephane Audran and two original trailers for the film. In Danish and French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The time is the mid 1800s, the location is a small Danish village somewhere near the Jutland Coast. This is a quiet, peaceful place where life has a certain rhythm. Here people know and respect each other. They also keep an eye on each other – to make sure that no one makes mistakes that could disrupt the idyllic harmony of their little paradise.
A French woman, Babette Hersant (Stephane Audran, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, La femme infidele), arrives in the village with a letter from a famous singer (Jean-Philippe Lafont, Carmen). The letter is for Philippa (Bodil Kjer, Cop), whom the singer met years ago, and her sister Martine (Birgitte Federspiel, Ordet, Death Comes at High Noon), both unmarried. After they read it and learn that Babette's family was killed during the Revolution, Philippa and Martine welcome her in their modest home. Almost immediately, Babette begins cleaning and cooking for the sisters.
Eventually, embrace Babette as one of their own. They like how she always tries to get the best deal on the food she buys for the sisters, her tact and graciousness. Like Philippa and Martine, Babette also always tries to help those who might need help.
Life in the village changes dramatically when a second letter arrives from Paris, this time for Babette. In it a close friend informs Babette that she has won 10,000 francs in the lottery. Philippa and Martine immediately assume that their relationship with Babette has come to an end. However, much to their surprise Babette asks them for permission to prepare a delicious dinner to honor their late father and thank them for their kindness during the years. A week later, everyone in the village is invited to a "real French dinner".
Adapted from a story by Karen Blixen, Babette's Feast is a slow and rather subdued film about the way people connect and communicate in closed communities. It is also about passion and pleasure and the way people understand and respond to them. The film is set in the 1800s, but many of its observations are in fact still relevant today.
Babette's Feast begins with a rather long prologue that introduces the main characters and highlights events from their lives which later on will justify many of their decisions and actions. Before Babette's arrival, the focus of attention is primarily on the two sisters, Philippa and Martine, and their relationship with their father. The prologue also makes it clear that religion will have an important role in the film.
Babette's Feast has a lot in common with Italian director Marco Ferreri's legendary La Grande Bouffe. In the latter food consumption is also effectively used to produce fascinating observations about people who have isolated themselves and chosen to live their lives in a certain way. Unlike Babette's Feast, however, towards the end La Grande Bouffe becomes a seriously unsettling, even offensive film that hits hard some very specific targets. Babette's Feast heads in the opposite direction and ends on an optimistic note.
The actors are wonderful. Audran, who appeared in many of Claude Chabrol's best films, is terrific as the witty Babette. Federspiel and Kjer are equally impressive as the spinster sisters. Jarl Kulle is very convincing as the heartbroken general. Ingmar Bergman's favorite actress Bibi Anderson also has a memorable cameo in the film.
Babette's Feast was lensed by Danish cinematographer Henning Kristiansen (Henning Carlsen's Hunger, Laslo Benedek's The Night Visitor).
Babette's Feast Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Gabriel Axel's Babette's Feast arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye.
The high-definition transfer appears to have been sourced from the same elements Criterion had access to when they prepared their Blu-ray release of this acclaimed Danish film for the U.S. market. However, the two releases are not identical. First, the framing of their transfers is different. Criterion's release preserves the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, while this release presents the film in 1.78:1. However, the discrepancies are extremely small. I attempted to match a few screencaptures, but none of them accurately show how small the difference in the framing is. In fact, if viewing the two films it is virtually impossible to spot any specific differences. Second, the two releases have different color-schemes. On this release there are more prominent grays and better balanced blues. On the Criterion release the reds and blues are notably richer. Detail and clarity, however, are virtually identical (compare screencapture # 10 with screencapture #1 from our review of the Criterion release). During close-ups as well as during larger panoramic shots image depth is identical. There are no compression issues. Some extremely light noise, however, is present. Lastly, there are no large debris, stains, cuts, or damage marks to report in this review. All in all, despite the minor framing discrepancy, I think that the technical presentation is every bit as satisfying as Criterion's presentation of Babette Feast. Projected, the film looks quite beautiful. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Babette's Feast Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: Danish LPCM 2.0 (with portions of French and Swedish). For the record, Artificial Eye have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless track is as impressive as the one from Criterion's release. In fact, I compared a couple of different scenes and there is absolutely no difference in terms of depth and dynamic intensity. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and very easy to follow. Also, there are no pops, cracks, audio dropouts, or distortions to report in this review.
Babette's Feast Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Babette's Feast Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Artificial Eye's Blu-ray release of Babette's Feast is a very good alternative for folks residing in Region-B territories who could not take advantage of Criterion's release. It is framed slightly differently, but in my opinion the framing does not in any way affect the integrity of the film. This release also contains a new video interview with Stéphane Audran which is not included on Criterion's release. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Babette's Feast Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Babette's Feast Blu-ray - January 25, 2012
Independent British distributors Artificial Eye will release on Blu-ray Danish director Gabriel Axel's Babettes gæstebud a.k.a Babette's Feast (1987), starring Stéphane Audran, Bodil Kjer, and Bibi Andersson. In 1987, the film won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury ...
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