Film Reviews

Delicatessen (1991) – Blu-ray Review

There are few post-apocalyptic movies quite as distinctive as Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s deliciously black comedy Delicatessen. This was their first film, after The City of Lost Children was turned down for being too expensive to give to two, at the time, unknowns in the cinema industry. Needless to say, after Delicatessen came out, there were no more problems with funding!

Delicatessen follows the lives of the occupants of a run down tenement block set above a delicatessen, somewhere in post-apocalyptic France. The world is bleak and fog-bound, meat is all but unheard of and money is no longer paper or gold, but comes in the form of corn kernels. In this bleak world where even the rats have been driven to extinction, it begs the question of where does the butcher (played with manic glee by Jean-Claude Dreyfus) of this particular block get his meat from?

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Into this strange little commune arrives a former circus performer, Louison (the glorious Dominique Pinon) looking for a job as a handyman. The butcher hires him to take care of the many maintenance jobs that need taking care of around the place, and he, and the audience, get to know the various odd characters who live here, from the Frog Man (Howard Vernon) who lives in the water-filled basement where he raises snails and frogs to eat, to Aurore Interligator (Silvie Laguna), who apparently hears voices that tell her to kill herself. Having fallen in love with the butcher’s daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), will Louison be able to escape the fate that claimed all the other handymen before him?

Special mention needs to be given to the opening credits of this film, which are a delight of design, with all the different members of the crew having their names displayed on items that relate to their role. Director of photography? Their name is on a camera. The composer? On a broken record. And so on. It was all painstakingly done by hand and still looks utterly wonderful, accompanied by Carlos D’Alessio’s haunting and distinctly French soundtrack.

So what succulent delights are Studiocanal serving up for us in this new Blu-ray release? Well, there’s almost nothing new on offer in that department; let’s get that out the way good and early. All but one of the features here have been included on the previous Blu-ray release, which makes it a tough upsell for folks who already have it in their collection unless they really want the new restoration, or the upgrade to 4K. You get ‘Making of: Fine Cooked Pork Meats’, which is a montage of behind the scenes footage rather than anything structured. For that you need to turn to ‘Main Course Pieces’ which is an in-depth behind the scenes look at the making of the film.

There’s an audio commentary with Jean-Pierre Jeunet, which is in French with English subtitles. Rounding things out is ‘Jeunet’s Archives’, which is a collection of videos of cast auditions and behind the scenes snippets. One interesting omission is the movie’s teaser and full trailer which were on the previous Blu-ray release. The only piece of new content here appears to be an interview with Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, looking back at the film. It’s interesting enough, but is it enough to recommend an upgrade?

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Delicatessen remains a tasty little delight of French cinema, a clear statement of the marvellous things that were to come from the collaboration between Jeunet and Caro. The pair have brought us The City of Lost Children, Amelie, Micmacs and even the admittedly not-that-great Alien Resurrection (but that film does have both Ron Perlman and Dominique Pinon in it, who are both bloody excellent) but Delicatessen is the best thing they’ve ever made. If you already own this on Blu-ray I don’t know if you should be rushing out to buy it again. But if you don’t? You should pick it up. Spend some time with the strange inhabits of a decaying little tenement block. Maybe steer clear of the butcher’s wares though.

Delicatessen is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Studiocanal.

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