Centered on a post-apocalyptic society where food is scrarce and used as currency. In an apartment building with a delicatessen on the ground floor. The owner of the eatery also owns the apartment building and is in need of a new maintenance man since the prior one "mysteriously" disappeared. A former clown applies for the job and the butcher's intent is to have him work for as little as possible, and then serve him to odd tenants who pay the butcher in grain. The clown and butcher's daughter fall in love and she tries to foil her father's plans by contacting the "troglodytes", a grain eating sub-group of society who live entirely underground.
Many elements of cause/consequence make the film ever more interesting to watch again and again. One such example is a couple always using the same prophylactic (a condom), of which the husband (Ticky Olgado) takes great care: it has been patched twice. Hence, the couple has two kids. See more »
When Julie welcomes Louison in her room and we see her following him to the table she has no socks, when she brings him later into his room after he has fallen asleep she has socks. See more »
In the opening credits, crew members' names appear on objects that the camera tracks across: the director of photography's name appears on a camera, the composer's name on a broken 12" record, etc. See more »
In the late 70s, french director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and designer Marc Caro met and found they shared a lot of interests in the visual arts, their friendship soon became an artistic team that would spent the whole 80s making short films where the duo was able to explore and master the cinema language, perfecting their storytelling abilities and visual design skills, preparing themselves to make a career in film-making. Their efforts were crowned in 1991, when they were finally able to take their craft to a full feature length film, in the project that would become their breakthrough in the film industry and the proper beginning of their careers as filmmakers: the post-apocalyptic comedy "Delicatessen".
The world of "Delicatessen" is a dark bleak France where there is apparently no law and food is incredibly sparse (and is now used as currency). In this post-apocalyptic world, the residents of an apartment building in the middle of nowhere have found a solution to the hunger thanks to their landlord, the butcher Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who from time to time kills the building's handyman to feed the bizarre group of tenants. One day, former clown Louison (Dominique Pinon) arrives to the building and gets the handyman position, but unfortunately for Clapet and the other tenants, the butcher's daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac) has fallen in love with Louison, and will do whatever is necessary to stop the madness of the delicatessen.
Written by Gilles Adrien (who also wrote many of the previous Jeunet & Caro shorts) as well as Jeunet & Caro themselves, "Delicatessen" is a wonderfully imaginative tale of sweet romance and hilarious black comedy that gives an unexpected light-hearted twist to a plot that most writers would treat as a serious subject matter. And surprisingly it works, as while the story is anything but complex, the assortment of strange (yet very human) characters that populate the world of "Delicatessen" truly become the movie's soul. And not only the main characters, as every single one of them (no matter how small the role is) is highly detailed and serves a specific function as if the whole building was one of the odd machines that still work in this post-apocalyptic portrait of France.
Visually, the film is simply sublime. Since the directors decided to divide responsibilities, Marc Caro took full control of the production design and the artistic elements of the movie, so with this freedom Caro's inventive artistic vision reaches new heights creating a movie that could be described as a moving canvas. Highly atmospheric, the french duo takes the cinematography (by Darius Khondji) to the next level mixing techniques and showing a whole range of influences that go from German Expressionism to 40s modernism, resulting in one of the most beautiful looking movies ever done. Still, the movie is more than a visual fest, as Jeunet (in charge of guiding the actors) shows a complete domain over his cast & crew keeping the many elements of the film working nicely in the right place.
As written above, the characters are the film's soul, and the ensemble of actors playing them really made a terrific job in the film. Dominique Pinon (who would become one of Jeunet's regular collaborators) delivers a subtle and charming performance as the ex-clown Louison. He is very believable in the role, and gives the character a very human touch, essential for the kind of character he is playing. The same can be said of Marie-Laure Dougnac, who plays Louison's love interest, Julie, one of the "more normal" characters in the movie. Jean-Claude Dreyfus as Clapet the Butcher is simply delightful as the story's "villian", and basically every member of the cast delivers an unforgettable performance no matter how long or short is their screen time (Silvie Laguna for example, is really wonderful).
"Delicatessen" is a solid debut by this two skillful french artists, and it already shows why the two quickly became an important team in the French fantasy cinema. Their very own brand of surrealist fantasy flows freely through the film making a unique visual fest (although it definitely goes a bit over-the-top at times), and while it doesn't reach the artistic level of their follow-up (the 1995 classic "La Cité Des Enfants Perdus"), it's still a nicely done movie that most importantly, never gets boring or tiresome. Unlike their later films, "Delicatessen" may not be for everyone, as it's mix of black comedy and surreal fantasy may seem at times too close to absurd to be enjoyable. However, those with a taste for the bizarre will find a great movie in this French comedy.
While "Delicatessen" still shows the excess of the young and raw talent of Jeunet & Caro, it's not hard to see why they became known worldwide after this initial success, as this movie shows the enormous potential of their skills as filmmakers. This brilliant mixture of genres is definitely a very recommended movie, and like "La Cité Des Enfants Perdus" ("City of the Lost Children"), an essential film of the 90s. 8/10
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