Saturday, December 5, 2015

Delicatessen (1991) A Post-Apocalyptic, Neo-noir, Bizarre Comedy

Directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (The City of Lost Children (1995), Amélie (2001), A Very Long Engagement (2004)), written by Gilles Adrien, Marc Caro, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Cinematography by Darius Khondji (Se7en (1995), The City of Lost Children (1995), ). Music by Carlos D'Alessio (India Song (1975), Maîtresse (1975)).

Starring Dominique Pinon as Louison,  Marie-Laure Dougnac as Julie Clapet,  Jean-Claude Dreyfus as The Butcher Clapet,  Karin Viard as Mademoiselle Plusse, Ticky Holgado as Marcel Tapioca,  Anne-Marie Pisani as Madame Tapioca,  Edith Ker as Grandmother, Rufus as Robert Kube,  Jacques Mathou as Roger,  Howard Vernon as Frog Man,  Chick Ortega as Postman, Silvie Laguna as Aurore Interligator, Jean-François Perrier as Georges Interligator, Dominique Zardi as Taxi Driver.

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Neo-Noirsville...  Somewhere in the not too distant past of the French Quarter of The Twilight Zone. At a cross road, in a ruined town, stands a lone surviving apartment house with its electric lit apartments and storefront Delicatessen.


All the domain of Clapet The Butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who we first encounter in his shop engaged in the art of sharpening a cleaver. He is a sort of French incarnation of a combination of Raymond Burr and a demented  Jackie Gleason, a murder, who lures victims ( i.e., "meat" which he sells to his tenants for grain), with a help wanted add in a paper called Hard Times. He is aided in this scheme by the Postman and the Taxi Driver. This world is split into cannibals, underground sewer dwelling grain eaters, and one frog and snail gourmet whose abode is a permanently flooded apartment a fertile breeding habitat for amphibians and mollusks with which he co-exists.

The Butcher

The film opens as the latest victim is dispatched.
Our protagonist is Dominique Pinon (Stan Louison), a clown, part of the comedy duo "Stan & Livingstone", who is down on his luck since the slaughter for food of his Clown Act monkey partner Livingstone. Dominique rides out in a taxi to the job interview at the Butchers. He pays for the ride with his shoes. The Butcher asks how much does he weigh looking him over with an appraising eye, while over head looking out their windows, most of the denizens of the apartment house are savoring the latest candidate. Marie-Laure Dougnac is Julie Clapet the butchers farsighted daughter. Clapet and Pinon fall in love and she becomes determined to save him from his fate. Watch for their musical duos, the soap bubble sequence, and other audio-visual delights.

Dominique Pinon (Stan Louison) with soap bubble

Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac)
Dominique Pinon (Stan Louison) & Karin Viard (Mademoiselle Plusse)

The rest of the apartments oddball tenants are  the butchers squeeze, Mademoiselle Plusse, a government employee and his frustrated suicidal wife who constructs  incredibly complex Rube Goldberg contraptions to do herself in, a group of toy makers, and a petty thief and his family. All the main characters are nicely fleshed out. In addition we have a literal underground, anarchist society of grain eaters who Julie Clapet engages to kidnap Dominique.

This droll Neo Noir is envelops you totally. The camera work and set design recall some of the great classic studio noirs of the 40's and the pallet of the handful of color noirs of the 50's with interesting compositions, and dutch angles. There are also echos and homages to films like The Widow, The Enforcer, Berlin Express, The Third Man, The Drowning Pool, Brazil, David Lynch's Blue Velvet and the films of Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy.

Julie (Dougnac) in her apartment
A nice addition to a Neo Noir comedy sub genre 10/10. Put it on the shelf alongside The Big Lebowski



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