The season of feasts is upon us.
As we look forward to overindulging ourselves in gluttony, what better way to get into the feasting headspace than watching some culinary-centered entertainment. Each of these three films focuses on different functions of food in our lives, but they all will make your mouth water and your stomach growl.
Babette’s Feast (1987)
In the 19th century, two beautiful but pious sisters, living in a remote village in Denmark, avoid their many suitors while under the watchful eye of their devout Christian father. Decades later, with the sisters having grown old, a French refugee named Babette knocks on their door and becomes the family maid. When she stumbles into money, Babette throws a decadent and tempting feast for the family’s congregation, whose piety rejects the pleasures of food and drink.
“Babette’s Feast” is a slow but enchanting film with the quiet and muted beauty of a Hammershøi painting. Every moment leads to the titular feast, which serves as the perfect catalyst for remedying the bitterness and regret of the aging congregation. The film emphasizes the art of cooking and encapsulates the power of food to break down barriers and to uplift and even redeem the spirit.
Big Night (1996)
In 1950s New Jersey, Italian immigrant brothers, Primo and Secondo, run a struggling Italian restaurant. Secondo wants to adapt the cuisine to American tastes while Primo scoffs at the idea of diverting from Italian tradition. When Italian-American singer, Louis Prima, is said to be coming into town, they put all they have into one lavish feast with the fate of the restaurant on the line.
While there is romance and plenty of comedy, “Big Night” is really about the relationship of two brothers, played by Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub. While filling the screen with spectacular dishes, the film highlights the intersectionality of cuisine and identity as well as the subtle ways food is embedded in all our lives. Siblings may bicker and fight, but they always come back to each other, and food will be there as well.
Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
In Taipei, a retired head chef lives with his three unmarried daughters. He cooks weekly dinners for the family as he slowly loses his connection with his daughters and his own sense of taste. Amongst the metropolis, they all grapple with romance, disappointment and the twists and turns of life.
“Eat Drink Man Woman” opens with some of the most detailed and gorgeous shots of food ever put to film, immediately quelling any doubts and whetting any appetites. The narrative wanders between different characters and their personal struggles, which all interweave together, but the presence of food is always there. Despite life’s fickle nature, sitting around a table of food is one of its constants as well as the setting for some of its deepest emotions and confessions.