This one's a Must-See!

From left to right: Robert, Mademoiselle Plusse, Roger and Butcher Clapet.

Insanely imaginative; imaginatively insane

Here we have one of my all-time favourite films Delicatessen, a wonderfully bizarre black comedy-film created by French filmmaking duo Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, the two men who also made Amélie and The City of Lost Children.

It is a film I adore because of its vast collection of strange characters, its very “French” taste in music and, of course, its crazy nature. The word “weird” is a favourite for people to use when describing the film, as with most Jeunet and Caro-films, and I can agree – ’tis beautifully weird.

Delicatessen is set in a post-apocalyptic future, in an apartment building inhabited by a group of cannibals. Every once in a while the landlord, Butcher Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) prepares a meal for the others in the house, which usually consists of human flesh. It’s not unusual that he even uses one of the tenants in his food. One day, a former circus-clown, Louison, played by the wonderful Dominique Pinon, arrives at the building for a place to stay. Clapet hires him as the new caretaker, truly wishing to make him into dinner, especially after he starts showing signs of being attracted to Clapet’s daughter, Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac).

Julie starts to develop feelings for Louison, as well, and in the meantime hatred towards her father, vowing to defend Louison from him and his cleaver. Clapet’s girlfriend, the gorgeous Mademoiselle Plusse (Karin Viard) also starts to see evil in the man. This sounds like a plot that couldn’t be all that interesting on its own, perhaps, but it is all nicely intercut with other plotlines going on inside the building, involving the other odd characters who live there with strange habits, hobbies and jobs.

Louison (Pinon) listens to the squeaking of bed springs with Plusse (Viard).

There is a woman named Aurore Interligator (Silvie Laguna) who tries to commit suicide in increasingly clever and wonderfully imaginative ways; there is the starving Tapioca-family (Ticky Holgado and Anne-Marie Pisani as the parents and Mikael Todde and Boban Javenski as the kids); there is an old man, called the Frog Man (Howard Vernon), who is locked in his room with snails, frogs (interestingly, two of my favourite creatures), and lots of water; there are two toy-makers, Robert (Rufus) who’s in love with Aurore, and Roger (Jacques Mathou) who’s hiding something from Robert; there is a violent postman (Chick Ortega) who lusts for Julie; and lastly, there is an army of vegetarians, the Troglodists, who live in the sewers and are sworn enemies and vermin to the cannibals. As I said, the word is “weird”.

I, for one, am baffled as to why one could hate a film simply because it is weird in nature, especially when they’re weird in such a lovably crazy way. Its utter madness, however, isn’t the only thing that’s great about Delicatessen, but also how imaginative and creative it is in its madness. Aurore’s many different overly complex suicide-attempts make some of the most clever scenes I’ve seen in a film.  Also, I highly recommend that you seek out the “rythm-scene” on YouTube and you will see just how imaginative Jeunet et Caro can be.

I won’t give away much here, but another wonderful scene is one towards the end, when a man rips off a woman’s dress right before starting to take of his own clothes. Both the audience and the woman belive, naturally, that a sex scene will occur, but at the last second the man grabs all the removed garnments and uses them for something completely different. That’s another lovely thing about Jeunet et Caro; you can hardly ever guess where a scene is going or what could possibly happen.

The Frog Man uses a party horn as a tounge when hunting for flies.

Delicatessen is tragically underrated; such a clever and unique film deserves more love and recognition. It is good that Amélie helped at least Jeunet to get somewhere and I’m glad he’s still making films, some of which I still need to see. As for Caro, his luck was worse, but that can yet change.

It’s a bit surprising that I’m this far into the blog post without mentioning the film’s visuals. It’s certainly strong on those and it helps that the movie is filmed through a brownish filter that makes it look beautiful, to me at least. Either way I think the colours fit the movie’s post-apocalyptic setting, where the outdoors are cloudy and misty and the clouds are illuminated by streetlights and such, giving them that nice, brownish colour.

Delicatessen is charmingly insane, has lovably bizarre characters, beautifully clever writing, astounding art direction, great acting, lovely music and offers us many scenes that prove just what a wonderful imagination Jeunet et Caro have. This is most definitely one of my favourite films of theirs.

5/5 whatever