REVIEW: Blu-ray Only Release: Delicatessen

Film: Delicatessen
Release date: 13th September 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 96 mins
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro
Starring: Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Pascal Benezech, Karin Viard
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Fantasy/Thriller
Studio: Optimum
Format: Blu-ray
Country: France

The bizarro team of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro (in their debut) present the idiosyncrasies of post-apocalyptic French life where cannibalism, musical monkeys and a malevolent postman are just part of the everyday.

Clapet is a butcher; he also owns his own apartment building, where the tenants rely on him as their only source of sustenance. In this ambiguous world where “nothing grows anymore”, Clapet has only one source for his wares. Unfortunately, this method tends to mean that his building never gets any serious maintenance work done.

Louison, an unemployed Circus Clown, is the latest tenant/caretaker/victim, and his sweet nature causes him to form a romance with Clapet’s daughter, Julie.

In a bid to save Louison’s life, Julie plots with the Troglodistes, a group of Vegetarian freedom fighters to end her father’s reign of terror for good…

The plot is only half the story; Jeunet and Caro are more interested in style and character. A mix of Lynchian nightmare and Gilliamesque chaos, Delicatessen is as oddball an experience as one could hope to see. The outside world is barely viewed, and when it is, it is shrouded in thick fog (probably as much due to budgetary constraints as artistic vision), and so what we do see is a strange group of people, living in a strange house in a world we don’t fully understand. Amongst the group is an old man who keeps his room like a swamp (complete with live frogs) to attract snails for him to eat, a pair of brothers who manufacture “moo boxes,” and a woman who can’t commit suicide because of faulty plumbing.

This plethora of eccentrics add nothing whatsoever to the aforementioned plot, but they do assist in adding detail to a rounded world that as an audience we don’t mind spending ninety minutes in - which makes things far more exciting than your average plot mechanics.

With so much wall to wall quirk, it would be easy for the film to lose its heart; thankfully Jeunet and Caro are too smart for that, and have created the chaste romance between Louison and Julie, a courtship so sweet and so timid that we’re left with no choice but to root for them from the start.

Highlights include Louison and Mademoiselle Plusse (Clapet’s ‘lover’ - a term used as loosely as possible) testing the bed to find the creaky spring (not as smutty as it sounds), and a gloriously absurd moment where the tenants are almost dancing in unison as they go about their daily routine (to the sound of the abovementioned spring, no less).

Jeunet went on to added fame ten years later with the critically acclaimed Amelie, and his more recent output (A Very Long Engagement, Micmacs) proves that he hasn’t lost his eye for offbeat weirdness, but as with many artists with a singular vision, it is hard to forget what is was like to see them at work for the very first time.

Delicatessen isn’t perfect, it loses it’s way towards the end as the need for a resolution becomes necessary (Pixar’s WALL-E actually springs to mind), but it is a thing of absolute beauty, and even at nineteen years of age it looks stunning on Blu-ray, proving that if a film is well shot it can be spruced up just as beautifully as the latest hi-definition releases. And most importantly, like Delicatessen’s own setting, can be absolutely timeless.

As gorgeous a film as you’re ever likely to see - with enough charm to make the nonsense work. The thinness of the plot is actually a plus, and the inherent sweetness is enough to disarm even the sternest of viewers. SEAN

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