It doesn't amount to much as a story, but that hardly matters; this is the kind of comedy that leaps from a unique wellspring of imagination and inspiration, and it's handled with such visual virtuosity that you can't help but be mesmerised. French co-directors of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro have wildly inventive imaginations that gravitate to the darker absurdities of human behaviour, and their visual extravagance is matched by impressive technical skill. There's some priceless comedy here, some of which is so inventive that you may feel the urge to stand up and cheer. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com
On the DVD: the special features are pretty standard, with a trailer, "making of" featurette and footage of the rehearsal process. The audio commentary is supplied by Jeunet, which, although interesting, is in French and thus necessitates the use of subtitles which then obliterate the movie's own subtitles. Once the commentary is on it is virtually impossible to turn this option off without reloading the disc. However, the Dolby stereo works wonders for this film, which is rich in sound, and surprisingly the 1.85:1 letterbox ratio is perfect for a film that is grainy by design. --Nikki Disney
The special extras are real bonus features that add so much to the collectability of this little gem. The movie itself is in French or German, Italian or Spanish Audio Dialogue with choices of English, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish Subtitles. The aforementioned special features are a fasinating Director’s Commentary from Jeunet; ‘Making Of’ Feature (Fine Slices (and delicacies) From Diane Bertrand); Archive Footage ‘From the Archives of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’; 6 Teasers and a Trailer. It is rated 15 and is 95 Minutes of hilarious, eccentric, innovative cinema. I loved every one of those minutes.
A Trivia fact: Caro and Jeunet next went on to make the equally eccentric and much loved ‘The City of Lost Children’. Jeunet was then tempted to U.S. mainstream on his own where he directed the disappointing ‘Alien: Resurrection’ before returning to France to return to his love of innovative and original film making with the enchanting Worldwide arthouse hit ‘Amelie’. Surprisingly, Caro has yet to direct another film to date.
Like I say, a simple little plot device. It works beautifully. 'Delicatessen' is quite a remarkable little film. Shot on a low budget, it is exemplary for anyone wanting to make movies: it helps if you have talent as a director and can enlist a highly competent crew of technicians and professionals; you will need an excellent script; and a superb cast won't go amiss.
It's a lovely script. The test of a good story is how quickly you suspend disbelief. You are riveted from the opening shots. You absorb the notion that this is a world with no currency and little food, where, frankly, anything is possible. You settle to enjoy the film. And your attention is held by the cast. These are wonderfully idiosyncratic roles and worthy performances - you settle to enjoy beautifully imagined characters, created by a blend of excellent screenwriting and wholly convincing acting. The action is both plot-driven and character-driven - the characters enlist your sympathies and engage your sense of humour.
And the humour is beautifully choreographed - watch the scenes with the bedsprings!
Jeunet's world of 'Delicatessen' is an extravagant fantasia. He never explains what has gone wrong in the world. Life goes on. Two brothers earn an incongruous living making those annoying toys that moo like a cow! One voluptuous tenant works at the oldest profession. Another devises foolproof means to kill herself. Our hero, the new handyman, plays the saw and dreams of happy days as a circus clown. Everyone watches TV. It seems that the only industry to have survived is the entertainment industry ... or, at least, the slapstick side of it.
It's an ironic take on French culture. French cuisine has become cannibalism - doubtless the tenants know how to make a boudin or pāté out of human remains. At least one of the tenants maintains tradition, though - he breeds snails and frogs in his flooded apartment.
But who are the underground, the troglodytes who inhabit the sewers and who are portrayed as bringing down society? The reality is that this is not a film with a hidden message or cryptic critique of French society. It's not a film in which you search for meaning. Jeunet offers fantasy - quirky, droll, surreal, but fantasy. The fantasy exists not to elaborate some political message, but to sustain the story. It's a plot device - the fantasy provides the vehicle for the story of love and butchery. It makes the inexplicable explicable.
A fine, funny movie with a superb ensemble cast and great direction. A film to savour ... and to speculate on how much it influenced the 'League of Gentlemen'.
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