- One most inventive and original films to grace the silver screen 9/9/2004 12:00:00 AM by The_Void
Delicatessen is hard to pin down under a specific genre label; it's a surreal black comedy, a human drama, a post-apocalyptic horror movie, a twisted thriller, a futuristic fantasy; and all in all; one of the strangest and most original films I've ever seen.
In this fantasy world, the world has been ravaged and food is now in short supply. This has therefore made food invaluable and it is being used as currency. Things are traded for with grain, corn and lentils, but not everyone can afford the luxury of food, and some have had to resort to cannibalism to continue to enjoy eating. Our scene opens at a delicatessen in an unspecified location in France, and we are treated to an absolutely delicious sequence (no pun intended) in which a man is desperately trying to hide himself in the trash can. We later find that the reason for this is that this particular delicatessen hires handymen and keeps them long enough to fatten them up, and then they are eaten by the delicatessen's butcher and the inhabitants of the apartment building in which they live. The story really gets going when an ex-clown turns up at the shop, wanting the handyman's job, which has...become available. The plot thickens when the new handyman meets, and later falls in love with, the butcher's daughter; Julie. Julie knows what goes on at the delicatessen and can't allow her new found love to meet the same fate as the others, and therefore does the only thing she can do; hire a band of vegetarian freedom fighters to save her love from becoming dinner for the butcher and his customers.
Delicatessen is directed by the team of Marc Caro (whom, I'm afraid, I am unfamiliar with) and the more well known Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director of a few lesser known modern classics, but best known for the enthusiastic 'Amelie'. The film is brought to life by a brilliant ensemble cast. Dominique Pinon (who also featured in Jeunet's Amelie, Alien 4 and City of Lost Children) takes the lead role of the clown turned handyman. His performance is both understated and magical; as he simultaneously manages to entice the viewer into his performance, and yet keeps his character in the realms of reality (a place in which this film doesn't take place). Jean-Claude Dreyfus is the real star of the show, however, as the extroverted and over the top butcher. His performance certainly isn't subdued, to say the least; and every moment that he is on screen is a delight. In a stark contrast to Dreyfus, Marie-Laure Dougnac; the young lady that plays his daughter and love interest for Pinon is very down to earth, and is the most 'normal' character in the film...although there's still room for her to be a nearly blind klutz. The rest of the ensemble comes together excellently, and not a single actor in the film performs below par or looks out of place; and there's not many films that you can say that for.
This film isn't quite like anything else I've ever seen. In fact, the only film I can think of that is similar to this is Terry Gilliam's futuristic fantasy; Brazil. The film draws it's originality from it's plot mainly, which is extremely surreal and inventive in itself, but it's not just that which makes Delicatessen one of a kind; it's all the smaller plot points. How many films do you know that feature a bullshit detector? (that is set off when the butcher tells it that "life is wonderful", no less). The way that the film looks is also wonderfully different; Delicatessen has a yellow hue, which lends it a style that is very dull and dreary; and that does the film no end of favours when you consider it's core subject material. The yellow hue also makes the film almost feel like a moving comic book, which is one of the things that gives the film it's surreal and absurd edge. I'm a big fan of atmospheric films, which is one of the main reasons why I like horror so much; and this film also has an atmosphere like no other. It's the way that the yellow-ish buildings look next to the dark skyline, and the way that the film uses darkness and smoke to make it more horrifying (see roof sequence towards the end) that gives this film the finishing touch to it's already distinct style.
The love story in the film is sweet and tender, and this very much offsets the dark overtones of the rest of the film. This is nice, as during the scenes between the clown (Pinon) and Julie (Dougnac), the film allows itself to indulge in humour that isn't dark like the rest of the film, and you get the impression that it's enjoying itself a little more. This is just another thing in a long line of great things that make Delicatessen a great movie. Another of these things is the more minor characters. I have never seen a more motley crew than the one in this film. As previously mentioned, Julie, although not entirely 'normal', is the most normal character in the film; the rest of it is populated by lunatics. There's a man with a house full of frogs, a woman that continually tries to commit suicide, a man that puts cans on his deaf mother in law so they know where she is etc. The support cast's wackiness don't add anything much to the story itself (which only really requires them to be there), but the fact that they are different and imaginative is another of the film's absurd edges, and another thing that makes this film different from everything else.
Delicatessen concentrates more on being absurd and surreal than it does in posing deep and philosophical questions. Personally, I have no problem with that, but those who do want a movie to be deep and meaningful might find the film disappointing because of that. That is not to say that the film completely lacks depth or meaning; although a moral to the story doesn't seem to present itself, the film takes it's depth from the 'what if' scenario that it presents; "if the world's food supply became too short to feed the population, would you resort to cannibalism or join the vegetarian freedom fighters?". It's a very general message; but it's definitely there.
Overall, Delicatessen is a sublime piece of cinema. You wont find imagination and inventiveness to the extent that it is shown here in most films, and that alone is reason enough to warrant this classic status. Delicatessen is everything I say it is and more; and overall the film is one of the true highlights of the 1990's. A gem.
- Masterpiece 10/15/2004 12:00:00 AM by imdb-3362
If Citizen Kane is the number one movie to see to learn anything about cinematography, this might as well be at number 2.
Delicatessen succeeds at creating a totally separate, consistent and believable universe with a very distinct atmosphere. The brown and green colors add to the weirdness of this universe.
Is it horror? Yes and no. Is it a comedy? Yes and no. Is it brilliant? Oh yes!
Everybody involved in the making of this picture gave it its best. The camera work is brilliant, the sets are simply amazing (with the final bathroom scene at the pinnacle), the editing and pace is breathtaking.
This could have been a very dark movie (and I guess a few Hollywood directors would have tried to turn it into a splatter movie and fail miserably), but the humor is just light, off-beat and hilarious enough to make it into a consistent and bearable whole. Every universe has its humor, and a strange universe has strange humor. Jacques Tati would have loved Delicatessen.
Julie's 'tea ceremony' without her glasses, the mattress spring test, Aurore's failing suicide contraptions, it's all funny as hell. I hope everyone who is even marginally involved in making movies gets to see Delicatessen and learns from its greatness. We could sure use a touch of genius in most of them ...
- absolutely riveting!!!! 10/10/2006 12:00:00 AM by postmanwhoalwaysringstwice
Melding the perfect mixture of the visual grace of a silent film with a modern soundscape and bearing a twenty-first century post-apocalyptic sardonic sense of humor, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's "Delicatessen" becomes one of the finest contemporary films.
This pitch black comedy delves into cannibalism and oddball romance in the same breath with equal gusto and therefore feels horrific, humorous, and haunting all at once. Every frame is a wonder of detail and originality that reinvigorates even the most jaded and long-time film viewer with the sense of rediscovering the art form. This is film-making in the highest regard worthy of praise, awe, and multiple viewings.
- Inventive, stylish and darkly amusing 6/25/2001 12:00:00 AM by JBLOSS
This is a superb film. The look and design of the sets is unique and the narrative is certainly original!! I would place this film along with others like Being John Malkovich as it really did make me sit up and take notice. There are some truly great set pieces in the film particularly when the whole house starts to get into the same rhythm as the love makers on the top floor ( ripped off by an American Beer company I note in an advert ) and the botched suicide attempt too - hey I said it is darkly amusing!! I would say that there is not a weak performance amongst the cast in this evocative tale of futuristic cannibalism!! Basically, trying to describe this film makes it sound too bizarre but I highly recommend it to anyone who likes originality and their humour on the edge of darkness.
- The brilliant debut of Caro & Jeunet 1/15/2007 12:00:00 AM by jluis1984
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