Thursday, 3 December 2015

I've Just Seen: Delicatessen (1991)

Delicatessen (1991)

Directors: Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Caro and Jeunet's film has elements that would be familiar to anyone who has seen Amelie (which is a lot of people). If that was too sweet for you, then Delicatessen, with its boarding house of cannibalistic tenants, might be right up your street. While most of the tenants eat human flesh out of desperation - some kind of disaster has occurred in France, leaving food scarce - the butcher who owns the building seems to get actual pleasure out of killing. The opening scene sets this up beautifully, as one tenant attempts to escape from the building without the butcher seeing him. It is both funny and terrifying.

As is typical of Jeunet's films, every character has a particular quirk or occupation that distinguishes them. One woman in the building is constantly coming up with elaborate suicide scenarios (which always fail); our protagonist Loulson, a circus performer, is constantly practicing his tricks; and Julie, who hates wearing her glasses in front of people, so plans her movements in an attempt to forestall collisions (which doesn't work).

The film is understandably dark in its humour, with Loulson's every encounter with the tenants underpinned by the knowledge that he is 'fresh meat.' There is a brilliantly funny scene when everyone in the house ends up in rhythm together, as the butcher and a tenant have sex (on squeaky bed springs), Julie plays her cello, an old woman knits, Loulson paints the ceiling, and so. All this climaxes together (in more ways than one). It reminded me of the Amelie scene about the number of couples who were all climaxing at that point (answer 15!).

Delicatessen's narrative climax is rather epic, involving bloodthirsty killers, vegetarian rebels, and a lot of water. The whole film is infused with magical whimsy, which creates a good tension with the subject matter. Good fun. 


  1. Strange and hilariously fun, this is my favorite Jeunet movie. The people in that house are just so weird.

    1. Jeunet is good at making distinct secondary characters, almost playing up the caricature, but it does give them a want they need to satisfy. It expands the world of his films.