1991, R, 100 min. Directed by Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Starring Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Karin Viard, Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 5, 1992
Set in some sort of post-apocalyptic Parisian deli o' the damned, this lunatic's take on the future of man is so delightfully warped that it's impossible to shake it out of your head and go get a decent night's sleep. Co-produced by ex-Python Terry Gilliam, Delicatessen has both the visual look and feel of such Gilliam treasures as Brazil, Jabberwocky, and The Time Bandits, the chief difference being, of course, that this time he wasn't directing. Instead, newcomers Jeunet and Caro take us on a grimy, sooty journey into a twisted future where food is scarce, people are fundamentally vile, and subterranean goggle-eyed raiders fight for their lives with the (mainly) dispassionate maniacs above ground. And what a ride it is! Scripted by noted comic book writer Gilles Adrien, the film is rife with comic sensibility; the tenants of the apartment building in which the delicatessen in question is located are a panoply of odd idiosyncrasies and depraved lifestyles. Into this hotbed of questionable sanity comes Louison (Pinon), an unemployed circus performer whose only friend and partner, a chimpanzee named Dr. Livingstone, has recently been devoured by an overly eager crowd of circus spectators. Arguably the sanest of the lot, Louison quickly finds himself falling for the deli owner's daughter (Dougnac), a strikingly frail and half-blind innocent caught up in a comedic hell beyond her control. Delicatessen overflows with homages to, among others, Fellini, Godard, and, in a charming scene where Louison and a young lady try to pinpoint the source of a bed's obnoxious squeaking, Charlie Chaplin. It might be argued that the visual aspects of the film rely too heavily on the Gilliam's previous endeavours, but Delicatessen moves with a comic surety and manic forward motion all its own. It's not a very pretty picture of the future, but God, what fun it is.