Thursday, 11 August 2011

Places: France/Films and cinema: Delicatessen (1991, Marco Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet).

Sourced from the Wikipedia 'Delicatessen (film)' page...because I live dangerously...

Delicatessen is a 1991 French black comedy film, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, starring Dominique Pinon and Karin Viard. It is set in an apartment building in a post-apocalyptic France of an ambiguous time period. The story focuses on the tenants of the building and their desperate bids to survive. Among these characters is the newly arrived Louison, who arrives to replace a tenant whose reason for departure is initially unclear. The butcher, Clapet, is the leader of the group which strives to keep control and balance in the apartment building.
It is largely a character-based film, with much of the interest being gained from each tenant's own particular idiosyncrasies and their relationship to each other.
Being released in North America with a credit reading "Terry Gilliam presents", the film just as its successor The City of Lost Children (1995) is a deliberate homage to Gilliam.

Delicatessen begins in a dilapidated apartment building in post-apocalyptic France. Food is in short supply, with grain used as currency. In the ground floor of the apartment building is a butcher's shop, run by the landlord, Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who posts job opportunities in the Hard Times paper as means to lure victims to the building, whom he murders and butchers as a cheap source of meat that he sells to his tenants.
Following the "departure" of the last worker, unemployed circus clown Louison (Dominique Pinon) arrives to apply for the vacant position. During his routine maintenance, he gradually befriends Clapet's daughter, Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), a relationship which slowly blossoms into romance. Aware of her father's motives and Louison's imminent death, Julie descends into the sewers to make contact with the feared Troglodistes, a vegetarian sub-group of French rebels, whom she convinces to help rescue Louison.
Following the apparent death and butchering of an old woman, the Troglodistes return, and Mr. Clapet, with the remaining tenants of the building, storm Louison's room in an attempt to murder him. Louison, aided by Julie, resists by flooding the bathroom until Clapet opens the door and he and the other tenants are momentarily carried away by the ensuing flood. Louison is able to narrowly avoid death as Clapet inadvertently kills himself with Louison's weapon. The film ends with Louison and Julie playing music together on the roof of the now peaceful apartment building.


  • Dominique Pinon as Louison
  • Marie-Laure Dougnac as Julie Clapet
  • Jean-Claude Dreyfus as Clapet
  • Karin Viard as Mademoiselle Plusse
  • Ticky Holgado as Marcel Tapioca
  • Edith Ker as Grandmother
  • Rufus as Robert Kube
  • Jacques Mathou as Roger
  • Howard Vernon as Frog Man
  • Marc Caro as Fox


The original American trailer for the film simply presented the comic "squeaky spring" sequence in full. The sequence depicts a montage of the butcher-landlord making love to his mistress on a noisy bed, while the rest of the building's tenants perform activities (painting ceilings, knitting, playing the cello, assembling animal calls) at an increasing pace, with the squeaks from the bedsprings dictating the tempo. The trailer ended with the butcher climaxing, each tenant's activity ending (rather violently) and then a sudden cut to the title logo and the 'swinging pig' emblem from the film's opening credits.
On the UK Region 2 DVD released by Momentum Pictures, the soundtrack is available in four languages. These are French, German, Spanish and Italian.

Critical reception

The film was received well critically. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave it 86% from a total of 35 reviews, and that of MetaCritic gave it 66 out of 100 from a total of 17 reviews. Variety called it "a zany little film that's a startling and clever debut", while Empire calls it "A fair bet for cultdom, a lot more likeable than its subject matter suggests, and simply essential viewing for vegetarians". Not all reviews were positive, however, with The New York Times saying "its last half-hour is devoted chiefly to letting the characters wreck the sets, and quite literally becomes a washout when the bathtub overflows."

Awards and nominations

The film has won and been nominated for several important European awards. At the César Awards it won Best Editing, Best Film Work, Best Production Design and Best Writing, at the European Film Awards it won Best Set Design, at Fantasporto the Audience Jury Award, at the Guild of German Art House Cinemas Best Foreign Film, at Sitges Best Actor, Best Director, Best Original Soundtrack and the Prize of Catalan Screenwriter's Critic and Writer's Association. At the Tokyo International Film Festival, it won the Gold Award. The film also received nominations for those award ceremonies as well as for the BAFTAs.

*Originally introduced to me by my French tutor at school, Delicatessen was an unusual and fascinating visual feast. Having watched, and having become my favourite film, 'Amelie', directed by the same man, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, was a great start of what awesome cinematography to expect. Weird and kooky, Delicatessen is certainly one for the arthouse fan. Oh, and vegetarian/animal rights activists, of course.

No comments:

Post a Comment