on 16 April 2006
This is a lovely, sick comedy set in post-apocalyptic France, where a butcher satisfies his customers' demands for meat, which is in short supply, by killing and butchering innocent people (including some of his lodgers.) The dramatic events of the film centre around the fact that the butcher's daughter has fallen in love with one of her father's prospective victims. This atmospherically shot film has a real intelligent, dark wit and is great fun to watch.
In a battered French street in what looks like the aftermath of an apocalyptic past, present or future, Louison (Dominique Pinon) is looking for a job. He soon finds a job as a janitor in a dilapidated apartment block, not realising the job comes with a chilling past.
The landlord is also the local butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), a man feared by everyone and certainly not to be messed with! Food has become scarce, and with his tenants hungry the butchers search for new supplies of fresh meat takes him to unmentionably gruesome sources.
Louison doesn't seem to be the perfect choice for a handyman, he's too small and too skinny, but he does have hidden talents. He was once a clown in the circus, his sweet, playful nature has caught the eye of the landlords daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac). Julie is shy and quiet, not at all like her monstrous father, but she slowly develops a friendship with Louison.
The apartment block is full of peculiar characters, such as Mrs Interligator who hears voices telling her to kill herself, Mr Potin who lives in the cellar with frogs and snails, and the brothers Kube who construct toys that make farmyard sounds.
You would assume `Delicatessen' was a horror film, but you'd be so wrong. 20 years ago, the world was entranced by the genius of `Delicatessen', one of the most peculiar love stories ever told. We enter the zany world of directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. In equal measures a comic strip fantasy, a comedy, throw in some social commentary, sci-fi gets a look in, horror too, I could go on. `Delicatessen' is a genre-defying spectacle like no other film.
The brilliant characters pale in comparison to the hilarious execution of so many classic scenes. The most famous sequence involves the butcher making love to his mistress on a squeaky bed. As the noise of the bed-springs gets faster and louder, the camera moves around to the other tenants, observing their own work in time to the rhythm of the bed-springs. This riotously hilarious sequence has been copied many times since, but it's never been bettered.
Who can forget Mrs Interligator's doomed attempts at committing suicide, the Australian, the unsuccessful tea party, and the sensational final sequence. Throw in some vegetarian rebels who live underground, a crazy postman, a symphony on a rooftop, and you've still not come close to showcasing all the cinematic gems in this film. The eccentricities of the cast dont overwhelm the film, nothing is overdone. This is down to the directors brilliant direction, it would be so easy for this film to have been an incomprehensible mess. Jeunet and Caro are craftsmen of the highest quality, the attention to detail in every aspect of this film is quite breathtaking.
Jeunet and Caro gobble up the surrealist spirit of Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Luis Buñuel and many others and regurgitates it into a twisted fairytale of staple French concerns, suicide, music, sex and food! `Delicatessen' is not just one of the funniest films i've seen, its not just one of the most romantic films I've seen, its one of the most creatively idiosyncratic films ever. `Delicatessen' is 100% magic cinematic.
on 1 July 2008
When recently asked by colleagues what my favourite film was, I said I couldn't pick one in particular, but a French film called Delicatessen would certainly be in the top five.
"What's it about?" they asked, as one would expect from a small group, all of whom had yet to see it:
"In a post-apocalyptic French apartment block in a world in which the resource we call meat is scarce, the Landlord, a butcher whose shop is annexed to the building, serves his clients the meat of tenants that get behind with the rent."
That's enough to put your average film lover off, and my colleagues, which is both true and a shame.
This film is multi-layered due to aspects of the building and the various characters, the tenants, who reside there. It's a black comedy, it's a creative masterpiece, it's a love story, it's a thriller, it's a joy and it has few peers - Amelie would one, although Amelie dispenses with the dark humour, gains a little from advances in CGI (and budget) and as a result becomes a worldwide hit.
One of the tenants has rid himself of the need to purchase any food types by flooding his apartment to make it a rampant breeding ground for snails and frogs.
If that isn't enough reason to spend 90 minutes of your life watching it, I'll stop right there.
on 11 November 2008
This is film noir set I presume in post world war 2 Paris, but anyway the details don't matter except to say that the starkness of the landscape is echoed in that of peoples' struggle to survive. The fascination is that up to an almost ridiculous point a pretense of adhering to various social conventions is kept up while all the while macabre scenes lurk and hang unseen ( but not unheard ) . It is certainly of the 'elephant in the room ' variety that few wish to either acknowledge or confront - you will soon work it out for yourself.The film revels in rapaciousness. You will find yourself laughing at absurdity, at touching moments of human urbanity,but also at things which normally would be too chilling to be funny. Very well acted and tightly directed.
Can a film which is about cannibalism, a terrible future for the earth and uncomfortable themes like suicide really be gentle, funny and lovable? This one is. Its the film I have watched most often, year after year, and still laugh out loud at. This is visual humour, and even thinking about some of the ridiculous situations (two people testing a squeaking bedspring by sitting on the bed and bouncing from side to side in unison, the squeaking synchronised with all the other bizarre goings-on in the house; an unlikeable character with a hatchet buried in his head and a surprised expression on his face) - it makes me smile to think about them and laugh out loud to watch.
on 14 April 2010
If you are looking for a post apocalyptic, bittersweet love story with a cannibalistic subplot then you've come to the right film.
After some kind of catastrophe meat has become impossible to find but a local butcher keeps supplying his loyal customers (who are also his tenants) with their daily iron requirement by all means necessary. I'm not giving away the plot by revealing "they're killing and eating humans". We find this out very early on in the film. Not long after we realise that the customers are in on the secret as well. This shocking fact is secondary to the main plot of the film, which itself is probably secondary to the style in which it is made.
The butcher employs resident handymen for the building but the main reason for employing them is to get a fresh supply of meat. A former circus performer (Louison) is the latest for the chopping block but he's a quirky character and beguiles the butcher's daughter and she decides to save him. We get amusing glimpses into the lives of the other residents, each one more bizarre than the one before.
This film is directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I've seen Amelie (directed by Jeunet) and the styles are similar. Both films create their own worlds in which we become fascinated by the lives of the quirky characters that inhabit them. However, while Amelie, while in a world of her own, at least lived a recognisable Paris Delicatessen is set in a fantasy world of what looks like the only building still standing in a large city. However there is still television and electricity (and postmen) because the plot requires them.
Like Amelie the charm of the film is the little details in the film that may or may not be crucial to the plot, such as the short sighted daughter buying two of everything in case of breakages and Louison's saw playing talents.
The overall tone is definitely positive and funny (really, even with the cannibalism). Basically the motto is love will conquer all. Thank God, Caro and Jeunet for that.
Set in a rotting wasteland where food and barter replace money, Dominque Pinon's unemployed clown (a gentle-natured cross between Popeye and Klaus Kinski) takes a job as handyman-cum-dinner in a rundown apartment owned by a butcher who hacks up the hired help to feed his other, not too morally particular residents. Complications ensue when he falls in love with the butcher's daughter and she enlists the aid of an underground group of vegetarian terrorists to help her save him. The butcher himself is beginning to feel remorse ("No-one is entirely evil. It's the circumstances, or we don't know what we're doing") but that doesn't stop him trying to make mincemeat out of his prospective son-in-law. There's more, but you probably won't believe me.
What starts out as just your average cannibalism comedy gradually wins you over, drawing you into the damaged lives of the block's credibly eccentric inhabitants, and even comes up with an entirely new way to get out of a trapped bathroom, but not one I'd recommend trying at home (unless you're being pursued by a cannibalistic butcher, of course). Nice little touches abound, such as the butcher's clumsy short-sighted daughter buying two of everything in case she breaks them or the granny who has tin cans tied to her so that her family can find her if she gets lost (no prizes for guessing what happens to her). You may not think you'll like it, but you probably will in spite of yourself...
The muted sepia tones are well captured, and there's an excellent extras package as well, including a genuinely informative audio commentary by Jean-Pierre Jeunet on a disc well worth buying - if it's to your taste.
You probably know him best for "Amelie" and "A Very Long Engagement," but Jean-Pierre Jeunet did an entirely different kind of comedy in "Delicatessen," a wicked black comedy that deals with... um, cannibalism. It's a twisted, dark story populated by the oddest characters that the writer could possibly have imagined -- and man, is it funny.
It's the postapocalyptic future, where food is so scarce that grain is used as money, and meat is completely gone. The setting is an apartment building run by a local butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who feeds his tenants in an unusual way: he hires assistants, then turns them into tomorrow's din-din. His newest assistant is the gentle vegetarian ex-clown Louison (Dominic Pinon).
But the butcher's plans get thrown for a loop when his cello-playing daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac) falls for Stanley and (unsurprisingly) wants to save her love from a fate worse than entrees. So she contacts the vegetarian resistance, the Troglodytes, and tricks them into invading her father's house, on the night when he plans to slaughter Louison.
Okay, let's get this straight: cannibalism is not funny. But comedies about cannibalism CAN be very funny, if done well. And "Delicatessen" manages to be a funny comedy in the tradition of Terry Gilliam, with the warped direction, surreal direction and strange settings. What was later precious in "Amelie" is weirdly ominous here... not that that's a bad thing.
It's also a challenge to create such a dark, bleak setting and somehow inject offbeat comedy into it. For example, one sex scene is juxtaposed against various activities (carpet beating, cello playing) -- all in the same rhythm. It's a moment of pure comic skill. But at the same time, Jeunet slips a bittersweet love story into the middle of the strangeness, relying on Pinon and Dougnac's strong chemistry.
The oddities of the characters are what take this dark comedy to the next level: a tough postman; a pair of brothers who make "moo" boxes, and an aristocratic old lady who goes to great -- and unsuccessful -- lengths to kill herself, Rube Goldberg-style. Julie and the innocent Louison are a bright spot, but the Troglodytes are a bit over-the-top. Really, must they be THAT dumb?
"Delicatessen" is an acquired taste. Okay, now that I've got that out of my system, here's the real end of the review: Jean-Pierre Jeunet's dark comedy is a bit hard to swallow at first, but the wickedly funny characters and offbeat script will win you over.
on 4 April 2007
This film is a really wonderful find. It was recommended to me by a friend a couple of years ago and has remained a firm favourite of mine ever since. If you want to see a slightly off the wall film with a great plot and hilarious visual gags, pick this one, it is one of the best!
Take the surrealist `sixties British comedy The Bed Sitting Room, blend it with elements of Sweeney Todd and if you have enough French humour to add into the mix then you may come somewhere close to Delicatessen. The film is set during an unknown time after some sort of unspecified but presumably apocalyptic event. Food is scarce and the delicatessen at the base of an apartment block accepts grain as currency in exchange for meat, but with there being no land suitable for pasture, meat is a scarce commodity - luckily butcher and landlord Clapet has a regular supply of livestock.
After answering a job advert, ex-circus performer Louison finds himself Clapet's latest lodger and on site handyman, though it's a position which tends not to last for long. Unaware that he is due to be sold as steaks, joints and mince, Louison is enthusiastic about his role and manages to befriend the daughter of his employer. There's little plot to this French cult title, instead we have a strange set-up full of even stranger characters and it's their quirky ways which form the main substance of the picture. Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's collaboration has resulted in a dark comedy with plenty of visual humour from the funniest sex scene ever to botched suicide attempts. The grim plot doesn't make this a grisly film, it's light hearted, wacky and farcical in the right places. It's almost like a cartoon translated into live-action and Dominique Pinon is superb in the lead role, his face is oddly handsome and so expressive, he has an almost childlike quality to him which makes him captivating to watch. Every single character in the apartment block is uniquely odd and there isn't one weak performance in the entire film, though their personalities tend to be larger than life and over-the-top, it never looks contrived or fake, it's a strangely plausible world which has been created for them.
For those who have never seen the film before, the Blu-Ray transfer may appear shocking at first with large levels of film grain. This was a very low budget film though and much of the grain is for artistic effect - especially during the outdoor scenes where we get a hint of the ruins. There is still a surprising amount of detail and it's a massive improvement over the DVD, maybe the DVD compression struggled to balance between texture and grain, but on the Blu-Ray the details of fabrics and faces are excellent given the nature of the source material. There's a hue to the overall picture (much like in Amelie or MicMacs) and the golden look is initially striking but your eyes adjust and it seems perfectly natural after a while, it also adds a fantasy feel to events. Initially the bonuses don't look extensive but there are some tasty morsels here. The 'making-of' is interesting if slightly rough looking, and a retrospective look by cast and crew reveals the fondness still felt for this quirky film. The directorial style has been described to as Terry Gilliam-esque, Jeunet himself discusses Gilliam's influence and its clear that the film is something off a nod to the ex-Python. A trailer consisting of the previously mentioned sex scene makes me chuckle every time - it's like a late night Morcambe and Wise sketch! This release also comes with a rather lovely book to accompany the film,
In a nutshell: A truly fun film which is loved by those who consider it essential viewing (me included), the pace dips slightly towards the water-filled ending but what a brilliant way to start a career for Jeunet, his trademark eccentric ensembles works well here and went on to produce one of the best films of 2009 with MicMacs.