Delicatessen – France, 1991

Delicatessen is a 1991 French post-apocalyptic black comedy feature film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Alien Resurrection) and Marc Caro. The movie stars Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Jean-Claude Dreyfus and Karin Viard.

In a dilapidated apartment building in a post-apocalyptic country, food is in short supply and grain is used as currency. On the ground floor is a butcher’s shop, run by the landlord, Clapet, 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 to sell to his tenants.

Following the murder of the last worker, unemployed circus clown Louison applies for the vacant position. During his routine maintenance, he befriends Clapet’s daughter, Julie, a relationship which slowly blossoms into romance. Louison proves to be a superb worker with a spectacular trick knife and the butcher is reluctant to kill him too quickly.

During this time several of the tenants fall under Louison’s boyish charms, worrying others who are more anxious for their own safety should they require meat. Aware of her father’s motives, Julie descends into the sewers to make contact with the feared Troglodistes, a group of vegetarian rebels, whom she persuades to help rescue Louison…

Reviews:

“One of the film’s most famous sequences […] is simply a marvelously edited montage of the apartment house dwellers rhythmically going about their various chores in time with Clapet’s vicious sex act above them. It’s both comical and slightly horrifying at the same time, something this film manages to achieve regularly throughout its relatively short running time.” Jeffrey Kaufman, Blu-ray.com

“It’s a strange film of contrasts, clashing horror with love and suspense with comedy, but it’s a very original work that proves to be both interesting and entertaining at the same time. It isn’t particularly thought provoking, and at times it seems to be simply weird for the sake of being weird, but those with a taste for surrealist black comedy should embrace the film with open arms.” Ian Jane, DVD Talk

Delicatessen defies categorisation as it includes elements of drama, romance and fantasy with a healthy dose of horror and comedy. It is beautifully directed, has a unique visual design, clever use of music and it is incredibly inventive with horrifying and hilarious scenes by turns.” Eat Horror

“While Delicatessen has a few bizarro precedents; Eraserhead, Brazil, Life on the Edge, The Last Battle, this is still a delightfully original picture, poised perfectly between farce and horror, with the sinister undertones of much recent French cinema fin.” Jack Yeovil, Empire

“From a technical stand point Delicatessen is an artistic tour de force that sometimes suffers under its own weight. The visual sequences are stunning, clever and amusing; many working as well choreographed jokes. The opening credits are a feast for the eye. The soundtrack is a haunting mix of odd sound effects and quirky little instrumentals with a borderline carnival feeling to them.” Hold It Now

“In the studiously zany French fantasy film Delicatessen, apocalyptic rubble and 1940’s American kitsch make for a peculiar mix […] Shot in oppressive orangey tones and sometimes taking unexpectedly grisly turns, Delicatessen works best when simply allowing its characters to express their strangeness.” Janet Maslin, The New York Times

” …hooks viewers with an outrageous montage of rythmically edited visuals initiated by a sex scene between the butcher and his lover shot from under the bed. All other wacko characters are well-defined and carefully developed, including the armed postman who holds up people when delivering the mail and the snail eater whose flat is two inches deep in water and escargot shells.” Variety

Choice dialogue:

Clapet: “I’m a butcher, but I don’t mince words.”

Cast and characters:

  • 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 – Howl of the Devil; Zombies’ LakeThe Diabolical Dr. Z; The Awful Dr. Orlof; et al
  • Marc Caro as Fox

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