Saturday, May 28, 2011

Delicatessen - Cannibalism can be funny

Delicatessen (comedy, romance, fantasy)
Directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac and Jean-Claude Dreyfus

Lionsgate Films | 1991 | 99 min | Rated R | Released Sep 14, 2010

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

French, German, Spanish: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

English, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish

Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc

The Film 4/5

Delicatessen is an unusual film. If you have seen any of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s other works, you’ll have an idea of what to expect. There are no jokes, but there is a lot of weird visual humor. It’s like meeting a French version of Quentin Tarantino or David Lynch.

The plot, such as it is, is set in an apartment complex above a delicatessen. The butcher, Clapet, hires people to do odd jobs. We are never told what year it is, but the action takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where food is scarce. Clapet’s motive for hiring people is to kill them and feed their body to the building’s inhabitants. The movie’s opening scene shows one such murder.

A new man arrives to apply for the now vacant position. He’s Louison (Pinon), an ex-circus clown. He has no money so pays for his taxi with his shoes, and then wears clown shoes for the remainder of the film. Clapet hires him. Pinon has appeared in every Jeunet film in the past 20 years and seems perfectly at home with the director’s quirky style.

The building is falling apart and Louison has plenty of work. He is generally well-liked and soon attracts the attention of the butcher’s daughter, Julie (Dougnac). An unlikely romance blooms between the two and she begs her father not to kill Louison. She wears glasses and can barely see without them, but takes them off for her first date with Louison. The results are hilarious. She tells him that people in the building get eaten, but he has fallen asleep and misses the warning.

If you have seen the trailer, you’ll be familiar with a sequence in which the butcher has sex on a squeaky bed. We are shown various odd characters engaging in weird activities, and they all synchronize their actions with the sound of the springs squeaking. I don’t think I have seen anything else like it.

Sound travels through the building’s pipes and is used to develop parts of the plot. In an early scene, the camera takes us through a pipe to show where it leads. Very Lynchian.

Jeunet is original, creative, weird and genuinely funny, in a dry sort of way. The overall mix is unique. The film plays more like a series of vaguely connected scenes than a fluid story, but each element has something interesting. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.

Video Quality 4.5/5
The world of Delicatessen is filled with mist and grime. Outdoor scenes are deliberately murky and the image looks a little soft and noisy, but such scenes are infrequent. Detail is strong in the remaining scenes and shines during the frequent close-ups. Jeunet’s films have unusual color palettes too. For example, Amelie is full of greens and reds. Delicatessen has a reddish-brown tint and it fits the atmosphere well. Apart from the few misty shots, the overall quality is excellent for a film with such a low budget.

Audio Quality 4/5
The French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix does its job well. Dialogue is clear and it’s easy to hear frogs croaking and water rushing, as well as the unusual musical duets performed by Julie and Louison. The score has a distinctly French feel to it and adds something to the overall mood. Subtitles are displayed in white text and appear inside the frame.

Special Features 4/5

There’s plenty of background information to be found for those wanting to know more about the film:

Making of: Fine Cooked Pork Meats (13 minutes)

Trailer and Teaser (4 minutes)

Main Course Pieces (65 minutes)

Audio Commentary (Jeunet’s comments in French with optional subtitles)

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Archives (9 minutes)

What is Delicatessen? Is it a comedy? A romance? Fantasy? Horror? It’s a wonderfully unique mess served up as only Jeunet can. If you are already a fan of his work, this fits right in. For those new to it, this is a good place to start. I prefer Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, but Delicatessen has a lot of replay value and I’m happy to have it in my collection. Give it a try if you don't mind foreign language films.

No comments:

Post a Comment