Picks and Pans Review: Delicatessen
This hilarious French black comedy is set sometime after what seems like a nuclear holocaust in a nondescript apartment building that has seen better days and better tenants. The present inhabitants include a man who lives in a few inches of water in the basement along with assorted amphibians, a woman who futilely devises Rube Goldberg suicide machines, and two brothers who manufacture boxes that moo. These survivors have in common that they are chronically hungry carnivores—they wage fierce battle against a crew of sewer-dwelling herbivores—and that they are patrons of the remains of their building's deli.
In these days of famine and empty shelves, where does the beady-eyed butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) get his provender? Every time he sets out a fresh supply of cold cuts, there's one less tenant. And next week's rôti looks to be the building's newest occupant, ex—circus clown Pinon, who falls for the butcher's myopic daughter (Dougnac).
Adroitly shot by directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro—one side-splitting sequence plays to a threnody of creaking bed springs, wailing bicycle pump, clicking knitting needles and slip-slapping paintbrush—Delicatessen only occasionally gets mired in metaphor and symbolism. And for all the film's cannibalistic brutishness, it has—thanks to the delicate performances of Pinon and Dougnac—an undeniable sweetness. (R)