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Delicatessen

Delicatessen

By Dipesh Parmar • April 14th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
DELICATESSEN (MOVIE)
Miramax Films

Original release: April 3rd 1992
Running time: 99 minutes

Country of origin: France
Original language : French

Directors: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro
Writer: Gilles Adrien

Cast: Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Pascal Benezech

Delicatessen

Some may say that a classic can’t be bettered, but sometimes it does happen and the world smiles along. Terry Gilliams ‘Brazil’ is a brilliant film, a one-off that only an Englishman could’ve made. Less than a decade later, in 1992 Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s ‘Delicatessen’ trumps ‘Brazil’, and even makes it look pale in comparison. Even more idiosyncratic and escapist, perhaps only the French could have made such a film? Has there been another film like it since? I’m still waiting.

In a battered French street in what looks like the aftermath of an apocalyptic past, present or future, Louison (Dominique Pinon) is looking for a job. He soon finds one as a janitor in a dilapidated apartment block, not realising the job comes with a chilling past. The landlord is also the local butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), a man feared by everyone and certainly not to be messed with! Food has become scarce, and with his tenants hungry the butcher’s search for new supplies of fresh meat takes him to unmentionably gruesome sources.

Louison doesn’t seem to be the perfect choice for a handyman, he’s too small and too skinny, but he does have hidden talents. He was once a clown in the circus, his sweet, playful nature has caught the eye of the landlord’s daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac). Julie is shy and quiet, not at all like her monstrous father, but she slowly develops a friendship with Louison. The apartment block is full of peculiar characters, such as Mrs Interligator who hears voices telling her to kill herself, Mr Potin who lives in the cellar with frogs and snails, and the brothers Kube who construct toys that make farmyard sounds.

Delicatessen

We’d assume Delicatessen to be a horror film, but that would be wrong. 20 years ago, the world was entranced by the genius of it as one of the most peculiar love stories ever told. We enter the zany world of directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. In equal measures a comic strip fantasy and a comedy with some social commentary, science fiction and horror too, I could go on. It’s a genre-defying spectacle like no other film I’ve seen before or since.

The most famous sequence involves the butcher making love to his mistress on a squeaky bed. As the sound of the bed-springs become faster and louder, the camera moves around to the other tenants, observing their own work in time to the rhythm of the bed-springs. This riotously hilarious sequence has been copied many times since, but it’s never been bettered.

Who can forget Mrs Interligator’s doomed attempts at committing suicide, the Australian, the unsuccessful tea party, and the sensational final sequence. Throw in some vegetarian rebels who live underground, a crazy postman, a symphony on a rooftop, and you’ve still not come close to showcasing all the cinematic gems in this film. The eccentricities of the cast don’t overwhelm the film, nothing is overdone. This is down to the directors’ work; it would be so easy for Delicatessen to have been an incomprehensible mess. Jeunet and Caro are craftsmen of the highest quality; the attention to detail in every aspect of this film is quite breathtaking.

Jeunet and Caro gobble up the surrealist spirit of Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Luis Buñuel and many others and regurgitate it into a twisted fairytale of staple French concerns, suicide, music, sex and food! Delicatessen isn’t just one of the funniest films I’ve seen, its not just one of the most romantic films I’ve seen, its one of the most creatively idiosyncratic films ever.

Delicatessen

Dipesh Parmar

Dipesh Parmar

Art school opened Dipesh's eyes to the endless possibilities of film, constantly amazed at how filmmakers can alter our perceptions of the world. He's been devouring films in all genres from any period from all over the world ever since - life just wouldn't be the same without film! Some favourites include Stalker, All About My Mother, Oldboy, 2001, Man Bites Dog, Salaam Bombay, Hana Bi and Delicatessen.

Dipesh has his own film and music review website, Tarumatu, and you can follow him on Twitter @tarumatu.

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