Original theatrical poster
|Directed by||Marc Caro
|Produced by||Claudie Ossard|
|Written by||Gilles Adrien
|Music by||Carlos D'Alessio|
|Editing by||Hervé Schneid|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
17 April 1991
3 April 1992
|Running time||99 minutes|
Delicatessen is a 1991 French black comedy film, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, starring Dominique Pinon and Karin Viard. It is set in a post-apocalyptic apartment building in a France of an ambiguous time period. The story focuses on the tenants of the apartment building and their desperate bids to survive. Among these characters is a newly arrived tenant, who arrives to replace a tenant whose reason for departure is initially unclear. The butcher, Clapet, is the leader of the apartment who strives to keep control and balance in the apartment.
It is largely a character-based film, with much of the interest being gained from each tenant's own particular idiosyncrasies and their relationship to each other.
Delicatessen begins in a dilapidated apartment building in rural post-apocalyptic 1950s France. Food is in short supply, with grain used as currency and animal populations dwindling, having been hunted to extinction. At the foot of the apartment building is a butcher's shop, run by the landlord, Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who posts job opportunities in the "Hard Times" paper as means to lure victims to the building, whom he murders and butchers as a cheap source of meat that he sells to his tenants.
Following the "departure" of the last worker, unemployed circus clown Louison (Dominique Pinon) arrives to dance and fly around for the vacant position. During his routine maintenance, he gradually befriends Julie Clapet (Marie-Laure Dougnac), which slowly blossoms into a romantic relationship. Aware of her father's motives and Louison's imminent death, Julie descends into the sewers to make contact with the feared Troglodistes, a vegetarian sub-group of French rebels, whom she convinces to help rescue Louison.
Following the death and butchering (for meat) of an old woman, the Troglodistes return, and Mr. Clapet, with the remaining cannibalistic tenants of the building, storm Louison's room in an attempt to murder him. Louison, now aided by Julie, resists and injures many of the bloodthirsty tenants by flooding his apartment. He is able to narrowly avoid death as Clapet inadvertently kills himself with Louison's weapon. The film ends with Louison and Julie enjoying each other's company on the roof of the now peaceful apartment building.
The original American trailer for the film simply presented the comic "squeaky spring" sequence in full. The sequence depicts a montage of the butcher-landlord making love to his mistress on a noisy bed, while the rest of the building's tenants perform activities (painting ceilings, knitting, playing the cello, assembling animal calls) at an increasing pace, with the squeaks from the bedsprings dictating the tempo. The trailer ended with the butcher climaxing, each tenant's activity ending (rather violently) and then a sudden cut to the title logo and the 'swinging pig' emblem from the film's opening credits.
The film was received well critically. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave it 86% from a total of 35 reviews, and that of MetaCritic gave it 66 out of 100 from a total of 17 reviews. Variety called it "a zany little film that's a startling and clever debut", while Empire calls it "A fair bet for cultdom, a lot more likeable than its subject matter suggests, and simply essential viewing for vegetarians". Not all reviews were positive, however, with The New York Times saying "its last half-hour is devoted chiefly to letting the characters wreck the sets, and quite literally becomes a washout when the bathtub overflows."
The film has won and been nominated for several important European awards. At the César Awards it won Best Editing, Best Film Work, Best Production Design and Best Writing, at the European Film Awards it won Best Set Design, at Fantasporto the Audience Jury Award, at the Guild of German Art House Cinemas Best Foreign Film, at Sitges Best Actor, Best Director, Best Best Original Soundtrack and the Prize of Catalan Screenwriter's Critic and Writer's Association. At the Tokyo International Film Festival, it won the Gold Award. The film also received nominations for those award ceremonies as well as for the BAFTAs.