Friday, September 16, 2011

Delicatessen (1991)
FRANCE --- science fiction

Dir: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Quirky as quirky gets. This is the debut film for two very interesting French directors Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Who, together, made some visually stunning science fiction and fantasy films, which eventually lead to their collaboration on the follow-up "La Cité des Enfants Perdus" (City of Lost Children). Having said that, it all began here with this black comedy full of whimsy, cartoonish verve, and a matter-of-fact macabre pessimism peppered throughout. Even that description is unable to do the film justice.

Taking place in an undisclosed post-apocalyptic future where the currency is divided among seeds, grain, and other food, the tale properly begins with a man named Louison (director pet Dominique Pinon) being dropped off in front of an isolated rundown tenement. He inquires about an ad looking for a building handyman with the owner and manager, a butcher of the delicatessen named Clapet. He is quickly blown off. However, Clapet, quickly changes his mind and takes on Louison anyway. From the opening we see that the butcher gets his meat from people, yet interestingly enough, no one seems to notice or ask questions in this dim future world. It's possible everyone (the few tenants left) is just turning a blind eye.

The tenants consist of two guys who make those cow-mooing noisemaker cans, a suicidal wife who devises who believes she is hearing ghosts, the beautiful Ms. Plusse who happens to to be the mistress of Clapet, a married couple with children who the father makes condoms, and a man who has his apartment halfway a swamp complete with frogs and snails. While Louison works, he runs into a neighbor, the unassumingly beautiful daughter of the butcher, Julie Clapet. Louison is also hiding a slight secret about himself. He was apparently a well-known clown who performed with a monkey. In the meantime, a group of covert troglodytes, who in an almost cartoon-like manner, are running around in greasy wet suits through the sewers in search of food.

The film is a basic love story between Louison and Clapet's daughter Julie. Throughout the film, we peek into the lives of the strange tenants of the building, while Louison goes to war with Clapet over his daughter. desI won't go into detail about the plot into this film, because I feel it will kinda ruin the fun little moments that make up the sum of its parts. I will say see this innovative sci-fi French film, and judge for yourself. For me, though, the film kinda comes off with a tinge of Popeye sentiment with Louison standing in for Popeye (Doesn't he look like Robin Williams a little), for Olive Oyl, and her brute butcher father for Bluto. The post-apocalyptic setting is so strange and credible, that you feel a little desensitized to the random bits of violence and threat that come upon the denizens.

"Delicatessen" is a somewhat delightful though quirky film to watch. I have enjoyed Jean-Pierre Jeunet's films so far, and it's always an interesting study to return to the fast and loose early days of his cinematic resume. This film in particular floats through a whimsical Bernard Hermann-esque score and a myriad collection of funny noises and music from that joyous kind of circus music to the a classic scene with bed springs in tune to Hawaiian ukulele music. I would also note that this film has a sense of inspiration from a classic Hong Kong film called "House of 72 Tenants", with a similar story set in contemporary times, but no sci-fi elements at all.