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Delicatessen [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Delicatessen presents a post-apocalyptic scenario set entirely in a dank and gloomy building where the landlord operates a delicatessen on the ground floor. But this is an altogether meatless world, so the butcher-landlord keeps his customers happy by chopping unsuspecting victims into cutlets, and he's sharpening his knife for the new tenant (French comic actor Dominque Pinon) who's got the hots for the butcher's near-sighted daughter. Delicatessen is a feast (if you will) of hilarious vignettes, slapstick gags, and sweetly eccentric characters, including a man in a swampy room full of frogs, a woman doggedly determined to commit suicide (she never gets it right) and a pair of brothers who make toy sound boxes that "moo" like cows.
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 --This text refers to the Blu-ray edition.
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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.
Delicatessen is set in a post-apocalyptic France where meat is scarce and everything is rationed. Despite this, one butcher is never short of a good cut of meat. Unsurprisingly, his methods for obtaining meat aren't exactly orthodox. A former circus clown comes to the butcher's shop after seeing an ad in a paper for a job and moves into the apartment block. Everything seems perfectly normal at first, but the butcher's daughter starts to fall for the ex-circus clown and tries to warn him not to leave his room after dark.
This film seems to fit under several different genres as it encapsulates elements of romance, black comedy and satire. It's difficult to judge whether or not there was a good plot as the focus of French films is completely different to American films. French films spend a lot less time on the story and the plot and more on the art of cinema itself, so to speak. I wouldn't say that there was a conclusive plot to this story, but the ideas presented and the snippets of story that unfolded were very interesting and engaging. There were many plot twists and turns that I was not expecting at all and this is one of the perks of French cinema, because most of the time you haven't got a clue what's coming next!
This movie is incredibly sensory both visually and in sound. This was probably my favourite thing about the film as it created a brilliant atmosphere and there was such intricate detail put into every movement. What I loved was that much of the soundtrack was enhanced by repeated sounds made by everyday objects by the characters on screen and this also added to the humour. There are several moments when the entire focus is on something that seems so completely irrelevant, and yet somehow, the French turn it into something beautiful.
Everything is carried out with such precision and I love the detail that goes into French films that you would never find in a Hollywood film. There were several moments when I found myself staring fondly at the screen thinking 'this is just lovely', and that's a feeling I often get when watching French films, but rarely when watching a Hollywood film.
The acting is absolutely brilliant and very convincing. I don't think I've seen a French film yet that has had any 'bad' acting in it and the quality of French films is generally a lot higher than Hollywood films. Even though this was a black comedy/satire, I didn't think that anything was even remotely ridiculous, even though it was - that is how convincing the acting was.
The poster for this movie is less than impressive. When choosing a film to watch with hundreds of titles in front of me, a good eye-catching poster will be enough to entice me to watch that film. Delicatessen's poster featuring a simple golden pig did not appeal to me at all and I had absolutely no idea what sort of film it was. After watching it and taking some time to think, you could say that this golden pig represents the value of meat in this film, but not that many people take the time to consider these things so deeply. Despite it's less than impressive poster, I thought that this film was excellent. It is definitely not the type of film that I usually like to watch; however, I still found it highly enjoyable and there were some great cinematic elements.
It was full of suspense and mystery as well as romance and comedy, combining a whole host of different genres to make this an intriguing film.
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