Recommended Viewing Situation:
Hiding in the barrel, avoiding the butcher’s gaze.
Running Time: 99 minutes.
Format: 35mm film.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro.
Writers: Marc Caro, Gilles Adrien and Jean–Pierre Jeunet.
Cinematographer: Darius Khondji.
Awards: Bafta nomination and more.
Prepare yourselves for one of the most humorous and piquant films of the 1990’s. Directed by the French dynamic duo, Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Delicatessen tells the delectably dark tale of Louison (Dominique Pinon), an unemployed circus clown who finds a job working as a handyman for a nefarious butcher, Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), in a post-apocalyptic France. As the mysteries of Clapet’s life become revealed, Louison must try to find a way to escape with his newfound love, Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), the butcher’s myopic daughter.
As a fan of the Caro/Jeunet canon of films, Delicatessen might be the best of the bunch; it only just edges above the brilliant La Cité des Enfants Perdus (1995) and Jeunet’s quintessentially Parisian romp Amelie (2001). As is expected from this slice of modern French cinema, the performances are brilliant from the outset. Dominique Pinon’s versatility and physical comedy are exceptional. Yet, it is his more earnest moments that remain in our hearts; never have you heard someone so passionately talk about the loss of his circus monkey companion until this film. Then again, what more would you expect from a graduate of the prestigious Cours Simon acting school? This is not to exclude the richness that comes from the film’s fringe characters. The morbid story of toymaker Robert Kube (Rufus) and suicidal Aurore Interligator (Silvie Laguna) is one of the best side plots this writer has ever seen. However, the lifeblood of Delicatessen lies in the exceptionally deft hands of cinematographer Darius Khondji. His work spans the likes of David Fincher, Bernardo Bertolucci, Miacheal Hankee and Daanny Boyle. In short, not much can really be said aptly of his visual palette, this reviewer could chat whimsical about the richness, the depth and the ‘je-ne-sais-quoi-ness’ of his work…but, it is something that should be seen and experienced first hand. If ever there was a single reason to watch this film, it is Khondji’s cinematography alone.
In the familiar hands of Jeunet and Caro, our attentions are seamlessly shifted between moments of farce and disgust throughout the entire movie; with both finding manifestation in the memorable Rube-Goldberg-esque sex cacophony (a must for any student of film or visual art). The French duo are fantastic world builders, creating endless intrigue and plot twists that keep you suspended somewhere between thrill and disbelief. As with many of their films, the team pay equal homage to the works of Terry Gillingham, Karel Zeman and Buster Keaton respectively, but with much more freedom (characteristic of French cinema). So, sit down, relax and partake in an illicit mix of the darkly surreal and coy moments of pathos.