1991 French black comedy film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, Delicatessen, or 'Deli' as it's affectionately known by its fans, is set in the post-apocalyptic, mist-shrouded future of France. The story unfolds when Louision (Dominique Pinon), an ex- clown grieving for the loss of his chimpanzee companion, accepts a job as a janitor in a run down apartment building, owned by the local butcher, Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus). With post nuclear contamination resulting in a shortage of food, times are hard, and unbeknown to Louision, the job has a history; with previous employees ending up under the butcher's knife and on a resident's dinner plate - Delicatessen might just put you off meat for life!
When Louision falls in love with the butcher's daughter, Julie (Marie Laure Dougnan), he's temporarily reprieved from the cutting block to spare her feelings. But as times become ever harder and bellies begin to rumble, love proves to be insufficient to save Louision. There is but one hope - the 'Troglodites', a team of underground vegetarian rebels, enlisted by Julie to help save her beloved from her father's murderous hands.
Before the opening credits are rolled, Delicatessen has already introduced you to the residents of the building. The directors provide the audience with a 'myriad of quirky characters to amuse us', for example, the two young boys who spend the entirety of the film spying on the other tenants. Although never actually caught in the act, the boy's prying allows the audience to witnesses the man living in the basement of the building, breeding escargots in his flooded apartment, and a delusional, suicidal woman who, after hearing 'strange voices', thinks that the Devil is living in the heating system and follows his every order - even though it's only another of the residents, namely her husband, playing a prank on her.
Taking place entirely in, on, around and underneath the delicatessen, the film uses an old heating pipe that runs throughout the building to hold the characters and storyline together, as the tenants use it as a channel of communication. In one of the most mimicked scenes from a film, especially within advertising, the directors brilliantly choreograph the separate activities of each of the tenants in time with the sounds of the butcher making love to his wife - Louision painting the ceiling, Julie playing the Cello, two brothers making novelty sheep 'BAAAing' toys, and a man repairing his condoms with a bicycle repair kit - all become rhythmically synchronised and end in a hilarious finale.
Very imaginative and equally as weird, Delicatessen has a captivating and intriguing storyline that 'welds comedy and magic into a bizarre, grotesque fantasy of an oddball dystopian future'.
"...The directors are constantly playing curveball with the audience's expectations and nothing can prepare you for the sheer weirdness of it all. Combining the cruel humour of Grimm's fairy stories with the spirit of Terry Gilliam and that strange French knack of putting magic into film, this feverish tale of star-crossed lovers and small town cannibalism has endured as a true masterpiece of the fantastique. With Delicatessen, Jeunet and Caro gave the world a canny and confident calling card for that most coveted of talents - commercial art house cinema. Brilliant." Review by Stephen Brennan, EUFS Programme