In a post apocalyptic France, natural food, especially meat, is rare and so invaluable it's used as currency. When Louison (Dominique Pinon) a young circus worker turns up at the butcher delicatessen, Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), answering an ad for a handyman's job, he gets the job - but the butcher has his eyes on him as another source of meat. When Louison falls in love with Clapet's daughter, Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), she tries to scuttle her father's cannibalistic plans.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Delicatessen is a wonderfully zany black fantasy comedy with touches of science fiction - and of course, romance. It's a grim sort of fairy tale, set in a world which no longer supports plants or animals. With natural food in short supply, the residents of an apartment block have to improvise. The landlord is a delicatessen butcher who provides the questionable goods. But it's the love story that drives the film's black heart, between the clown who's left the circus (Dominique Pinon) and the shy, very short sighted Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac).
Some of the dialogue (all delivered in dramatic style) is sublime, even subtitled: "I'm a butcher but I don't mince words..."
Like Amelie, which Jean-Pierre Jeuntet directed some time after this, Delicatessen is infused with its own unique glow throughout. In this case it's a faded bronze, the colour of both nostalgia and corrosion.
The performances are outstanding, the humour is dry, black, bleak, acrid, yet somehow incredibly warm and humane all at once. The filmmakers create a world at odds with normality: for example, as Louison tries the right tap on his dirty basin as he gets settled in his new room, the water flows from the left - and vice versa. At the beginning, when he arrives and checks the address, Clapet says cryptically "Here or there, this is nowhere."
Glimpses into their weird lives are dryly amusing - like the factory where two workers make little novelty boxes that make moooing sounds. Why? Why not? Or the useful hand tool that flies like a boomerang to cut stranded nickers off the street lamp - and called an Australian. Witty asides like this - and there are hundreds - help lift the film's bleak themes to a mood of sustained joy. Love survives the apocalypse.
Published: July 29, 2004
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DELICATESSEN: DVD (M)
CAST: Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Karin Viard, Ticky Holgado, Anee-Marie Pisani
DIRECTOR: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeuntet
SCRIPT: Gilles Adrien
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
PRESENTATION: 1.85:1; DD 2.0
SPECIAL FEATURES: none
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
DVD RELEASE: July 28, 2004