Delicatessen (film)

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Delicatessen is a 1991 French post apocalyptic black comedy about an unemployed circus clown lured by a job offer into living in a dilapidated apartment building where food is in short supply and the landlord keeps the tenants satisfied by butchering fresh victims into meat.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro


Don't say that. No one is entirely evil. It's circumstance. Or they don't realize the wrong.
He disappeared one night, after a show. We only found his remains... They ate him! Can you believe that? They ate him!
They tell me Robert is a pervert, an ass-wipe, a panty-eater.
Louison: One must always forgive.
Julie Clapet: Depends. It's not always possible.
Louison: Don't say that. No one is entirely evil. It's circumstance. Or they don't realize the wrong.

Louison: Dr Livingstone... He was my partner.
Julie Clapet: Where is he now?
Louison: He disappeared one night, after a show. We only found his remains... They ate him! Can you believe that? They ate him!

Aurore Interligator: They talk to me about you.
Robert Kube: Who?
Aurore Interligator: The voices in my head.
Robert Kube: Of course, the voices. What do they say?
Aurore Interligator: Let me think... They speak in such a way...
Robert Kube: [expectantly] Do they speak... About love?
Aurore Interligator: They tell me Robert is a pervert, an ass-wipe, a panty-eater.
Robert Kube: [flustered] No, but you know that's not true?

About Delicatessen (film)

  • Somewhere in the mist-shrouded future of France, Louison (Pinon), a grieving ex-clown takes a job as janitor in a crumbling apartment block. Unbeknown to him, this job has a history and previous incumbents have ended up on the neighbour's dinner table via the butcher's block. When Louison innocently falls for the butcher's myopic daughter, the knife is held back to spare her feelings. But as bellies begin to rumble, will love be enough to keep Louison out of le charcuterie?
    This troubled romance provides the bare skeleton on which Jeunet and Caro hang their dreams. A hugely enjoyable film, "Delicatessen" welds comedy and magic into a bizarre, grotesque fantasy of an oddball dystopian future.
  • In the studiously zany French fantasy film "Delicatessen," apocalyptic rubble and 1940's American kitsch make for a peculiar mix. The setting of the title is part of a half-demolished apartment house that stands amid unexplained postwar devastation, in a world where lentils have become currency and underground guerrillas called "troglodists" refer to apartment-dwellers as "surfacers." In spite of such apparent hardship, an antic spirit prevails at the apartment house in question, which is presided over by a butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) with Sweeney Todd-like predilections. "I'm a butcher, but I don't mince words," he says.
  • As directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, "Delicatessen" does not aspire to much more than simply flinging these characters together and intercutting their exploits in a quick, stylish fashion. The results can be weirdly hilarious, as when the sounds of Louison rhythmically rocking on creaky bedsprings (as he paints a ceiling) are allowed to permeate and co-opt every other activity going on in the house, from rug beating to knitting. They can also be frenetic and pointless, which is the case more and more frequently as the film spins out of control. Its last half-hour is devoted chiefly to letting the characters wreck the sets, and quite literally becomes a washout when the bathtub overflows.
    Shot in oppressive orangey tones and sometimes taking unexpectedly grisly turns, "Delicatessen" works best when simply allowing its characters to express their strangeness. The material's fun-house atmosphere is most effectively captured in simple interludes, like Julie's rehearsed but bungled attempt to serve tea to Louison or Mrs. Interligator's unsuccessful stab at doing herself in using a lamp, a sewing machine and a length of red satin. It's worthwhile finding out how this is supposed to work, and why it doesn't.
  • Beautifully textured, cleverly scripted and eerily shot (often with a wideangle lens making characters look even weirder), Delicatessan is a zany little film that's a startling and clever debut for co-helmers Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro.
  • Strange things, one can only surmise, inhabit the imagination of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. "I used to live above a butcher shop," says Jeunet, handsome and brown-eyed, and just starting to gray. "We would always be awakened by the sounds of a meat cleaver, and my wife used to say we'd better move, that they're probably assassinating the residents above.
    That's essentially the story of "Delicatessen," although a lot happened between his wife's remark and the movie, which swept four awards at this year's Cesars, the French Oscars.
  • In "Delicatessen," the directors have created a freakishly fantastic universe out of time -- as if the world as we knew it ended around 1940 (which it might have) -- and out of place -- butcher shops are not called delicatessens in France, and the only clients of this one are the building's residents -- but somehow believably familiar. The residents are quirky but human, like people you might see on the subway and wonder about. That's what makes the film and its world work. That's also what makes it lugubrious (this week's rump steak was last week's resident).
    "The situations are caricatures, but the characters aren't," says Jeunet. "The actors play it all very seriously. If they had played it in an exaggerated way it would have been maudlin, a farce. It would have been Monty Python."
  • "Delicatessen" (Fine Arts) is a nightmare comedy with a childlike center of gravity. Set in a truly bleak future--a post-Apocalypse French city where meat-eaters prey on each other and vegetarians are underground insurgents hiding out in the sewers--it adopts a bizarre, playful tone. The macabre imagery and horrific shocks and jolts--the decaying hotel rooms and acts of insane violence--are recorded with a wistful, wackily innocent eye.
    Created by two young French filmmakers--Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro--"Delicatessen" is a fearsomely intense movie that mixes moods with formidable assurance. A Grand Prize winner at the Chicago Film Festival, it's loaded with horrific images and macabre jolts that keep resonating eerily in your mind's eye.
  • Jeunet and Caro split up their filmmaking chores--Jeunet directs the actors, Caro is more responsible for design and effects--and perhaps that's why there's such a satisfying density to "Delicatessen." The film itself is playful, weird, unpredictable and a bit tasteless. It has all the prerequisites of a true cult movie, which, in France, it already is. This is one foreign film that probably won't languish in the usual art-house ghetto; "Delicatessen" (Times-rated: Mature, for sensuality and violence) outshocks and outplays the American horror comedies at their own game. It's a feast of fools, a banquet of frissons : a nasty, childlike, murderously funny show.
  • The butcher (Dreyfus) who owns the block has developed a system to support his tenants by hiring odd-job men whom he fattens up, then turns into tasty meats that usefully supplement the lentils that have taken over as hard currency in the starving city.
    The only people who remain untouched by this meat eater's corruption are the butcher's saintly daughter (Clapet), a wistful but myopic cellist, and the old man in the cellar who has turned his home into a watery swamp to support the two apparent essentials of French cuisine, frogs and snails.


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