Sunday, June 29, 2003
Babette’s Feast and the Reclamation of Melodrama
A potential cultural move beyond strict irony may mean that “a large number of movies which sure look cynically artificial in their self-conscious manipulation of the seemingly inadequate narrative choices provided by their genres—from Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge to Rob Marshall’s Chicago—turn out to be sincere.” Traditional melodramas, in fact. More substantively, “Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast took on the apparently narrow and outdated worldview of the weepie and provided an exhilarating sense of what it could teach us. A decade and a half before movies such as Far From Heaven seemed to offer their take-it-or-leave-it option—either solemnly accept these conflicts on their own terms, or patronize the entire project—Babette’s Feast opened up a more generous possibility” (Jim Shepard, “Babette’s Feast and the Reclamation of Melodrama,” The Believer, June 2003). A superb discussion of Babette’s Feast interspersed with interesting if undirected reflections on melodrama—and the inevitable political potshot.