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L' Homme qui plantait des arbres
Possibly the most beautiful story ever written. Utter perfection in it's simplicity. Sheer poetry to rival the greatest of all bards. The author should receive a special oscar for giving this peaceful, wonderful tale to the world. If it were out on video I would purchase it in French and English. No ecological group could argue any better for what mankind can be capable of, but so often finds itself lacking.
Running time: 95 mins
Starring: Joachim Calmeyer, Tomas Norstrom, Bjorn Floberg, Reine Brynolfson
It will come as no surprise to fans of home design that the Swedes have always been ahead of the game. While the rest of the world mopped up after WWII, the country of IKEA spent considerable time and effort investigating the needs and habits of housewives, all in the aim of making their lot easy as possible. This is the subject of Bent Hamer's new film which is already the Norwegian entry for the 2004 Academy Awards.
A line of green caravans trundles across the frontier between Sweden and Norway, passing unobtrusively through the border checkpoint. The drivers grouse about having to switch to the right side of the road (at the time, the Swedes, like the English, still drove on the left side of the road) as they are given their assignments. Each observer is paired with an elderly volunteer who will go about his day-to-day life under the researcher’s watchful eye. The observation team is supplied with oversized high chairs to keep them apart from the household action.
This is a gentle, amusing and touching film which happily pokes fun at the cultural divide between two bordering nations. The Swedes obsession with domestic science is outlined in opening scenes which depict all manner of household contraptions being diligently tested in large government research centres. We learn that the next planned situational study is to be one of single men, living alone in Norway's remote snowscapes.
The story concentrates on one of the testers, Folke (Tomas Norstrom) who arrives in his specially designed motor home to observe Isak (Joachim Calmyer), an isolated farmer who is set in his ways in rural Norway. http://www.offoffoff.com/film/2004/images/kitchenstories1.jpg At first Isak refuses to let Folke enter the house. When he does, and sets up camp on a high chair in the kitchen every day, Isak ignores him, retreating to cook in his bedroom.
As Folke frets over his ability to complete his project (essentially drawing charts of Isak's kitchen movements), Isak has his own ideas which include leaving Folke in the dark with a dripping tap for most of the day, or drilling a hole in his bedroom floor so that he can become the observer. Folke's bosses (and there are several amusing scenes concerning the overall project) put pressure on him for results until suddenly the two men begin to form an unlikely bond.
This is a frequently very funny film, especially in the opening set-up when Isak refuses to play along. Because neither observer nor subject were allowed to converse, much of it is played as a silent film, with sly gags emerging every couple of minutes. The two talented lead actors bring out the best in each other, and the range of characters in the film - from the obsessive project boss to the Isak's increasingly jealous neighbour - are all played very amusingly with straight bats.
When the two men decide to become friends there is a deal of talk about cultural differences (the fact that both countries drove on different sides of the road is hotly debated), but the film takes a more human feel and becomes a tale of unity for both of these desperately lonely figures. Even the most cynical will leave with a smile on their face, and Kitchen Stories must be considered an underdog for the 2004 Foreign Language Film Oscar.
"Babette’s Feast,” winner of the Best Foreign Film of 1987.
If you have not seen “Babette’s Feast,” I suggest you wait for a rainy Saturday. Rainy, dark and damp, the same sort of stormy weather off the coast of Norway portrayed in the film. Then go buy the DVD and plan on wrapping yourself in a blanket, set some candles about the room, turn off the lights and turn on the television. You will be transported back to 19th century Denmark.
The story revolves around two sisters, Martine and Phillipa, living on a remote island. Their Father is the village priest and founder of a tiny Lutheran sect with a strict devotion to Puritanism and piety.
Although Martine and Phillipa are both given opportunities to leave the island and find fame and fortune in Europe, they remain with their Father and in service to the Lord.
One day a woman named Babette turns up at their door. Babette has been sent by a man who was once a suitor to Phillipa. He asks the sisters to take Babette into their home in order to escape the revolution in France. They do not know of Babette’s past, that she was once one of Paris’s greatest chefs.
Babette is resigned to a simple daily life of cleaning and cooking – the main dish being a soup made out of stale bread and dried cod.
But one day Babette receives a note. Much to her surprise she finds that she has won the lottery and come into a great fortune. This news comes upon the 100th birthday of the sisters’ Father who passed away some time ago.
While the Sisters are fully prepared to bid Babette goodbye and to see her take her wealth back to Paris, Babette surprises them and the village with plans to create a celebration feast. Only Babette carries the secret that she is a great chef.
It is that feast that becomes the centerpiece of this film.
Babette goes down to the waterfront to greet the boat when it arrives with her special order; bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne and other fine wines, live quail and fist-sized, pungent black truffles. To the horror of the onlooking villagers, a huge, live snapping turtle is hauled from the boat.
I am rapt with anticipation as I watch Babette and a young boy prepare the special meal; plucking the feathers from the quail and preparing the pastry “sacarphogus” in which the birds will roast.
A special guest is attending dinner this evening, a decorated officer in the French army. Surely he will appreciate the gourmet feast that Babette has prepared.
But the villagers are not so sure as they sit down at the table. Hasn’t God taught us that fine French food is evil? Is it not a sin to partake in the mind-numbing effects of wine? Wine should only be drunk in the celebration of communion in the church.
Babette’s feast was made up of the finest dishes and wines served at her restaurant in Paris:
Potage a’la Tortue
Blini Demidoff au Caviar
(Buckwheat cakes with caviar)
Caille en Sarcophage avec Sauce Perigourdine
(Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce)
(Cheese and Fresh Fruit)
Baba au Rhum avec les Figues
(Rum Cake with Dried Figs)
And after prayer, the dinner begins. The wine is opened and poured, the turtle soup ladled into each bowl. Next, tiny pancakes garnished with odd looking, fishy smelling little black eggs. Ah, a quick look of surprise in the eye of the French Officer. Caviar! And Champagne!
And then, as the guests are beginning to sip another glass of vintage wine, the aroma of something special wafts through the dining room; “Caille en Sarcophage avec Sauce Perigourdine.” http://www.themediadrome.com/Images/food/caille_en_sarcophage.jpg It is a masterpiece. One of the finest of the finest of classical French dishes served only in Paris’s finest restaurants. Tender, gamey quail stuffed with foie gras and encased in a puff pastry shell, swimming in a pool of black truffles hand-picked in the Perigord region of France. Rare bottles of “Clos de Vougeot” are poured into crystal goblets.
Dinner ends with a fabulous rum cake with glaceé and fresh fruits.
How can this be, the Officer asks himself. I know of only one chef, a woman, and a genius, who served these dishes at a luxurious meal I had in Paris. Could it be her, tonight? Has the art of her cuisine touched us tonight? I leave that for you to answer when you watch the film.
There have been numerous pieces written about the religious symbols in this film, some pointing to the generosity of Babette akin to the generosity of God. But it is the subtle messages of love and the pleasure that the meal brings to the guests that is what I find so special about “Babette’s Feast.”
While it may be a bit difficult to locate a live turtle for the soup, and you may not have the luxury of a winning lottery ticket to buy some truffles, on Oscar night you can create your own version of “Babette’s Feast.” If you do, I think you will find a personal connection to a film about food at its most transcendent.
I laughed so hard at this unusual movie. A real "Guy" flick but I think chicks would enjoy it too IF you aren't easily offended. Kind of sad and pathetic in some parts but overall extremely entertaining. :winky:
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