Sunday, March 22, 2009
Day Sixty: Delicatessen (1991) - Rank 4/5
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, in my opinion, is one of the most prominent French directors working today. When you sit down to watch one of his films, you have no doubt that you're viewing a Jeunet film, for his sense of cinematography, art direction and story are so distinctive (Patrice Laconte would be another fine example). I've enjoyed everything he's directed over the years, including his first Hollywood "I need money" project - "Alien: Resurrection." So when I finally got around to his first feature film, "Delicatessen," I'd already set the bar pretty high. While the film failed to disappoint, it didn't impress either (though once again, acceptability for the high standard I hold his films too still leaves this title in the realm of being classified as a good film).
The story is set in an overcast, dystopian realm where food and friends are scarce, so even the most ethically sound d individuals are not above cannibalism. Jeunet regular Dominique Pingon takes center stage in this story as an out-of-work circus clown who answers a butcher's advert for an assistant. The butcher is played by Jean-Claude Dreyfus, another fun, Jeunet regular. I will say one thing for Jeunet - he has a knack for picking individuals with unique appearances and/or screen presences. The butcher, apart from being the obvious character who slices up transients, is also landlord of a tenement building. Each apartment is filled with customers and/or potential victims. The story follows the romance between Pingon and the buther's near-blind daughter amidst all the Rube Goldberg chaos that is distinctive of the director's storytelling.
The main element that separates this film from his other works and easily identifies itself as one of his early works is the mass confusion that occurs for both the characters and the viewer as to what is happening in the end. Typically, Jeunet's endings are the culmination of half a dozen subplots or more, neatly closing as they intertwine with the main story. In "Delicatessen," the relationships between some characters seem stretched and the involvement of other characters seem almost unnecessary. There are a couple of characters who meet grisly fates and rather than their deaths seeming fitting, they seem premature or unwarranted, as if Jeunet (and frequent cowriter Marc Caro) couldn't figure out where further they could take them. Messy ending aside, a fair Jeunet film is still better than most "good films" churned out in America these days.
Watch the Trailer