Thursday, December 20, 2012
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro and written by Jeunet, Caro, and Gilles Adrien, Delicatessen is the story set in a post-apocalyptic world filled with famine where a butcher kills people to feed his tenants in the apartment above his deli. The film is a black comedy that explores a world where people are hungry as they turn to a butcher for help as he does whatever it takes to feed his friends. Starring Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, and Karin Viard. Delicatessen is a visually-stylish yet zany film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro.
In a post-apocalyptic world covered in a dust storm where there’s a horrible famine and the only currency in the world is grain, a butcher named Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) runs a delicatessen as he feeds the tenants above him as he’s also their landlord. After killing a worker, Clapet sends an ad to get a new whom he plans to kill later as an unemployed circus clown named Louiston (Dominique Pinon) arrives to answer the ad as Clapet lets him in. While Louiston does a lot of the work, he befriends Clapet’s daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac) as many of the tenants realize how resourceful Louiston is as Clapet is reluctant to kill as he waits for Clapet to do screw up.
When Julie learns what her father is planning to do, she reads the newspaper about an underground of vegetarians known as the Troglodistes as she goes underground where she meets them and tells them about the large vault of grain her father has. The Trogolodistes secretly try to go into the building to find where the vault of grain is where an attempted murder on Louiston went wrong since Louiston was nowhere near the incident. On the night when Louiston’s old clown performance is to be on TV, the Trogolodistes make an attempt to get all of the grain while Clapet decides to make one final attempt to kill Louiston as all hell breaks loose.
The film is essentially the story about a former circus clown who answers an ad to be a repairman at an apartment where the main floor is a deli as he is unaware that the people in the building are cannibals desperate to eat meet as their landlord/butcher does all of the killing. Set in this post-apocalyptic world during a famine, it’s a film that is a part-dystopian film but also bends all sorts of genres from slasher films, romance, and black comedy. A lot of which features all sorts of eccentricities such as many subplots such as Clapet’s affair with a seductive woman (Karin Viard), a family with an old lady (Edith Ker), two men trying to recreate old sounds, and a woman trying to kill herself in elaborate presentations.
The screenplay does lay to a traditional structure yet it does enough to establish what is happening in the world with the first ten minutes where a man tries to hide and he eventually gets killed by this butcher and then feed it to his tenants. When the character of Louiston appears, he has no idea what he’s in store yet he is oblivious to what really goes on as he focus his attention towards fixing up the building and falling for the butcher’s daughter who is a vegetarian. Meanwhile, there’s an underground group of vegetarians that are trying to survive in the underground as Caplet’s daughter eventually tells them about the large vault of grain that he has. The second half of the story is about not just the heist but also Caplet trying to kill Louiston in every way he can as things do go out of control yet Louiston is someone who is more than capable of taking care of things.
The direction of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet is definitely stylized in terms of the presentation they create. Largely as it’s set mostly in a building and some of it underground where it’s a world that is on to its own. Notably as Caro and Jeunet maintain an intimacy in this dystopian world where it’s very off as there’s not many people who lurk around outside except for those unfortunate victims that Caplet would kill to feed his tenants. Through some very stylized camera angles as well as quirky montages such as scene where lots of sound is made that almost becomes a musical number. It’s part of the strange world that the film wants to present as it’s definitely not reality but rather a reality that is truly off.
The film also features lots of unique set pieces to establish the different worlds where the apartment building is nearly in ruins as it’s surrounded by buildings that are practically destroyed. There’s lot of spaces where each tenant lives in their own world as the camera is always interested in that environment that includes a basement lived by a man (Howard Vernon) who surrounds himself with frogs and snails where he eats the latter. Eventually, there comes this climax between Louiston and Caplet where there’s so much that happens where it revolves into a lot of stylized scenery and action that would play into the fates of what would happen. Overall, Caro and Jeunet create a dazzling and very entertaining film that does a lot more to keep the audience excited.
Cinematographer Darius Khondji does brilliant work with the film‘s very stylized cinematography that is awash with lots of sepia-drenched colors for most of the film including the exteriors and underground as well as some of the interiors. Editor Herve Schneid does excellent work with the editing from the playful montages that is created to more stylish approaches to cutting to play up the humor and suspenseful moments of the film. Production designer Marc Caro, along with set decorator Aline Bonetto and art director Miljen Kreka Kljakovic, does spectacular work with the set pieces for the film such as the deli, the apartments, and the underground sewers that the Trogolodistes live in.
Costume designer Valerie Pozzo di Borgo does wonderful work with the costumes from the seductive red dresses that Mademoiselle Plusse wears to the more eccentric clothes of Louiston. The visual effects work of Pitof is a delight for the whimsy that it creates from some of the transitions that are created in the pipes to a few smaller things like bubbles that Louiston does to entertain a couple of kids. Sound editor Gerard Hardy does fantastic work with the sound to create an atmosphere as well as to play up the eccentricity of the apartment with its collage of sounds to create a musical number of sorts. The film’s music by Carlos D’Alessio is incredible for its orchestral pieces to play up the suspense as well as some light-hearted moments including the musical duet between Julie and Louiston where they respectively played cello and musical saw.
The casting by Pierre-Jacques Benichou is remarkable for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Pascal Benezech as the unfortunate victim in the film’s beginning, Boban Janevski and Mikael Todde as the two kids in the apartment, Marc Caro as a Trogolodistes, Edith Ker as the grandmother, Chick Ortega as the postman, Jean-Francois Perrier as the husband of the suicidal woman, and Silvie Laguna as the suicidal woman who tries to kill herself in strange yet elaborate presentations. Other memorable small roles include Anne-Marie Pisani as Madame Tapioca, Jacques Mathou as the craftsman Roger, and Howard Vernon as the man who lives with the frogs.
Future Jeunet regulars in Ticky Holgado and Rufus are excellent in their respective roles as the tenants in the pushover Marcel Tapioca and the sound re-creator Robert Kube. Karin Viard is wonderful as the seductive tenant Mademoiselle Plusse who befriends Louiston only to get herself into trouble with the Trogolodistes. Jean-Claude Dreyfus is great as the villainous Clapet who desires to try and kill for his tenants as he meets his greatest challenge in Louiston. Marie-Laure Dougnac is superb as Clapet’s vegetarian daughter Julie who falls for Louiston as she shares her eccentricities with him while doing whatever she cans to defy her father. Finally, there’s Dominique Pinon in a marvelous performance as Louiston where he displays a quirky sense of humor and charm as well as create a character who lives in a world of his own and finds his way to deal with whatever situation he’s going through.
Delicatessen is a spectacular yet whimsical film from the duo of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Featuring some outstanding performances from Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, and Jean-Claude Dreyfus. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to be a dystopian comedy with a mix of slasher and romance as it is also not afraid to not take itself so seriously. In the end, Delicatessen is a phenomenal film from Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet Films: The City of Lost Children - Alien: Resurrection - Amelie - A Very Long Engagement - Micmacs - (The Young and Prodigious Spivet) - The Auteurs #20: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
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