Director – Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Cast – Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Karin Viard, Rufus
Release Year – 1991
Reviewed by John of the Dead
The French have been making good horror films for decades, although it was not until last decade that they received the recognition they deserved with Martyrs, Inside, Them(Ils), and High Tension. Over a decade before any of them debuted City of Lost Children writers/directors Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet gave us a truly original tale with Delicatessen, a zany-plotted horror film that comes with the utmost in superb direction and makes for one of the most original horror films of the 1990s.
Centered in a post-apocalyptic age where food is so scarce it is used as currency, we follow a former clown who takes up an add as a handyman for an apartment complex situated above a delicatessen. Little does he know, the delicatessen/apartment owner has a knack for turning his handymen into unique feasts served to his tenants, but the plan is foiled when the landlord’s daughter falls in love with the man, sparking an all-out battle royale of insane proportions.
I was expecting a zany effort going into Delicatessen, but I had no idea that it would turn out as crazy as it did. It is supremely obvious that this film is way before it’s time, and even in this day and age it marvels the more creative films of the last few years. Never before have I seen a plot such as this one, although the idea of a newcomer being served as a dish by a cannibalistic antagonist is not a new idea, just an idea that was used in incredibly unique fashion. The daughter, Julie, falling for the new guy, Louison, was a cliché yet also unique way to bring about the carnage, which resulted in a latter half of the film consisting of constant battles between the two warring parties, the new guy and the girl’s father, Clapet. We get numerous odd characters thrown into the mix, with the most notable being an underground group of people known as the “Trogs” aka” Troglodytes” who are called upon to aid the girl and new guy in escaping her father’s apartment complex. The horror never really develops into a scary or gory effort, and stays somewhat in the background most of the movie. Nonetheless the storyline gives us enough to keep us horror hounds at bay, so long as you can appreciate the artistic approach afforded by the filmmakers.
Our two directors, Marc Caro(The City of Lost Children, Dante 01) and Jean-Pierre Jeunett(The City of Lost Children, Amelie) did an incredible job delivering this cool story to us, with amazing cinematography and awesome sets that left me marveling at how sweet of a visual film this is for its time. Had this been 2005 I would not have second guessed it, but for a 1991 film to look this good is utterly amazing and shows the directing prominence both of these directors harbor(which is evident given their other film credits). We get positive performances from the numerous actors involved, each delivering their own quirky mannerisms and insane antics and adding to the already fun atmosphere created by Caro and Jeunett in this truly memorable experience.
Overall, Delicatessen is a great French horror/comedy that gives us a unique tale complimented by superb direction exceeding in all levels. The horror is neither scary nor gory and in fact a bit subtle, but it is present enough to make for a good horror experience in this zany and insane early 90s flick many years before its time.