Babette may be the more rewarding film to watch, in part because it affirms that there are times when a single shared meal can have a transformative, even transcendent effect - something we would all like to (and should) believe. Meanwhile, Big Night takes on the thankless job of reminding us that our most common encounter with hunger is as a recurring debt for which eating provides a reprieve but no permanent solution.
...she has an anxious halo that bespeaks a reservoir of tremendous instability barely held in check: the specter of drug problems, emotional difficulties, dangerous liaisons. [Nathalie] Richard brings a fascinating bifurcated quality to this woman, impish yet cynical and almost terrifyingly vulnerable once you get past her seen-it-all facade: in her fierce not-quite androgyny, she seems to bring other scarred worlds to bear on the movie, to anchor its lightness in underground passions, perils, ambiguity. She isn't quite like anyone else in the movie, or the movies themselves -- Richard's so much quicker than a Jean Seberg or Anna Karina, as if channeling Martina Navratilova's reflexes through memories of the heroines of half a dozen Big Star songs. -- Howard Hampton. "The Strange Case of Irma Vep." In Olivier Assayas, ed. Kent Jones (Wien: SYNEMA, 2012), 108.