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  • Widescreen 2.20:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
    English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish


    Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 95 mins . M15+ . PAL


    The ‘captive universe’ idea in scripting is now a common one; this is the script that contains all the characters and situations and no outside influences can get in to upset the balance (Pulp Fiction, Lantana and Go are good examples). Where some work brilliantly, others collapse under their own weight, particularly when a script so obviously based in reality bears the hallmarks of a pure fiction.

    Delicatessen, made in 1990, was around long before any of these other films and the novelty is fairly fresh and new. Set in a world destroyed by something unexplained (but most likely a nuclear war of sorts), food has become the new currency. Here in the Delicatessen, a shop in the ground floor of an apartment building, the butcher has discovered a delicious new source of food. However, the building’s inhabitants seem to be disappearing with alarming regularity.

    "No one is really evil… it’s consequence."

    Enter Louison (Dominique Pinon) a job applicant for the position of general handyman, to replace the last guy who disappeared. As he settles into the new position the butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) running the delicatessen seems intent on carving him up as soon as is humanly possible. Setting traps for him, he doesn’t manage to do so before Louison has endeared himself to the bizarre inhabitants of the building. Like poor suicidal Aurore who hears disembodied voices, or the butcher’s poorly sighted daughter living in the building’s upper reaches. There’s an old lady knitting a jumper from the jumper itself in a seemingly pointless loop and a man who is breeding frogs and snails in his flooded apartment and essentially living on them (perhaps in some self-deprecatory French joke). Then there are the two toymakers, one of whom likes talking into the pipes that terminate hollowly in Aurore’s apartment…

    As Louison continues to narrowly avoid capture, the butcher’s daughter has a plan that involves the Underground Moles who see food for what it is; food. They want food to be taken off the currency charts and seen by all for its true value. And Louison, now in the awkward beginnings of a romance with the butcher’s daughter, naturally gets caught up in the middle.

    Whilst appearing quite grim on paper, there is actually a rich vein of comedy coursing through this film and whilst it is on the darker side, it is no less funny for that. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, Alien Resurrection) has placed his trademark brand of dark comedy into the screenplay with his exceptional grasp of cinematography filling in the visuals in exacting style. This is a convincing collapse-of-civilisation landscape with the paranoia of fragile people exacerbated by the situation and the creepy visuals. Performances are typically exaggerated to heighten the atmosphere of a world and a society crumbling before our eyes, creating an overall darkly comic film of both a complexity and a subtlety. Fans of Jeunet’s work will see hints of things to come here as well, particularly in the closed environment of the apartment building that reappears in a more modern (or should that be less modern?) manner in the crowd-pleasing Amelie. Jeunet’s fans will be impressed here, although Delicatessen is so humourously written and unusually original that it may even find a broader appeal to people unfamiliar with his other films.


    Picture quality is deliciously sharp and although almost the entire film is saturated in a sepia filter, it looks superb. There are some outdoor scenes that deliberately look like indoor sets, in much the same manner as films like James and the Giant Peach made use of deliberately stylised outdoor sets indoors. These all look fine and contribute to the mild surreality of the film itself. Colour is, as noted, heavily sepia oriented while blacks are true but usually quite flat. Shadow detail isn’t great, but it is occasionally okay, so this prompts me to think it is deliberately so. Flesh tones seem a little pasty under the sepia and heavy earth toned palettes, but again this would contribute to the overall atmosphere generated by the film’s setting. And finally we get to see this film in its full cinematic ratio of 2:20:1 (with anamorphic enhancement for you widescreeners).


    Sadly there's only a Dolby Digital stereo affair here, but this works well enough and is adequate for the film. Dialogue is all, of course, in French so if you speak that dead language, you’re in luck. Subtitles are quick to leap up and don’t seem to leave much out, plus they are intelligent. That means they understand even people without so much as a rudimentary grasp of French still know what 'oui' means and so therefore don’t clutter the film with needless subtitles. I like it a lot when subtitlers give us a little credit as an audience.

    Sound effects get a little grisly on occasions, but they sound perfect and even a little humourously over-the-top at times. The music though is exceedingly good with some deep dramatic or comic orchestral bits from Carlos D’Allesio. He also makes fine use of the more traditional French accordion and there are some exquisite moments between the two nervous lovers when they play duets between cello and saw. Yes, the saw. Like you saw wood with.


    These were the first things caught by the butcher and consequently were the first things eaten. I bet they were tasty too, consarn it.


    Delicatessen is going to be familiar to anyone who has enjoyed any of Jeunet’s films but missed this one somehow. His usual brand of subtle wit and dark overtones combine to create a film that is mildly unsettling, but outweighed by the good humour and assembly of diverse characters. I enjoyed it, though it took me a little while to become fully immersed. However, the last half of the film is where everything has been set up and must play out and this is naturally where the audience (particularly an English speaking one) will find the film taking flight.

    It’s different, but comes with enough content to allow the audience to warm to it if they give it half a chance. Well worth the investigation for anyone tiring of the usual brainless drivel that seems so popular and, sadly, so common these days.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=4206
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      And I quote...
    "It’s different, but also familiar. A not-too-distant future in which food has become currency… regardless of what it's actually composed of."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
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    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
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    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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