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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Delicatessen
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // R // May 2, 2006
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted April 26, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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The Movie:

Before Jean-Pierre Jeunet won oodles of critical acclaim for his hit, Amelie, he was best known for his collaborations with Marc Caro, with whom he made the dark and wonderful The City of Lost Children, and of course, Delicatessen – a strange hybrid of science fiction elements with trappings of black humor and cannibalism. This film has brought them many admirers, including Terry Gilliam and until now it's been strangely absent on DVD in North America (you'd have thought that it would have come out around the same time as Amelia to cash in on that's film's popularity).

The story is based around Louison (Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon who also appears in Amelie), who arrives out of nowhere one day, in a post apocalyptic world, or more specifically, a small town in France. Louison is looking for work in trade for room and board, as a former clown his skills aren't so much in demand but he is a perfectly capable laborer and while he doesn't have much money he's perfectly happy to work for what he needs. He finally finds a job as a handyman in an strange old apartment building overtop of a butcher shop, where, to his delight, he is given lodging and some food in exchange for his services by the butcher himself, a man named Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus of The City Of Lost Children).

Food is a hot commodity in this world, and used as currency. Most people live off of grain and other bland consumables and use more expensive foods like meat as barter, and because of this a lot of people are also cannibals. The butcher shop downstairs takes care of this for the tenants, but unluckily for Louison, he's next on the menu. Things get a little complicated for the butcher, who intends to serve him up to the tenants who live above him in exchange for grain, when his pretty daughter, Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), falls in love with Louison as she knows all too well what her father and his tenants are up to. In order to save his life, she gets in touch with an underground movement made up of some eccentric vegetarian rebels who actually east food rather than covet it as a possession.

On a visual level, Delicatessen is a completely amazing film that could easily draw comparisons to the better works of Terry Gilliam with maybe some of the stranger elements of David Fincher's catalogue thrown in for good measure – but which also stands on its own as a completely unique animal. Strange architecture, oddly mutant like cast members, and bizarre and unlikely color schemes with an emphasis on organic Earth tones like green yellow and brown give the film a very original visual flair uncommon in most other films. Every frame is constructed with a detail-oriented sense of care and the compositions in this movie are absolutely perfect from start to finish. Truly one of the finest examples of just how good a film can look made within the last fifteen years, Delicatessen is such a sumptuous looking movie that it's really hard to appreciate just how pretty it all is upon first viewing and as such, it holds up well and for that reason it has quite a bit of replay value. Repeat viewings ensure that you'll pick out little details that you didn't notice the first or even second time around.

The performances in the film are similarly fantastic. Dominique Pinon is completely sympathetic and a genuinely likeable guy in the film, we're able to feel for him and understand his plight and we honestly don't want to see him end up on someone's dinner plate. We're able to invest enough in his performance that we care about him and therefore we care about the outcome of the film, especially when his romance with Julie kicks in. To that mind, Marie-Laure Dougnac is adorable in her part, she's quirky and odd but there's a sweetness to her in the movie that suits the equally goofy sweetness that Louison carries about. The true star of the cast, however, is Jean-Claude Dreyfus who is over the top pretty much throughout the film and he brings a very funny persona to the movie that works well in the setting of the story. It helps as well that Dreyfus has some of the best lines of dialogue in the film, made even more memorable by his delivery (his interaction with the "Bullshit Detector" is classic!). Look for Jess Franco/Euro-cult regular Howard Vernon, who pops up in the film in a fun supporting role.

The story is quirky and while it's very dark it keep its tongue very much in cheek while the film takes us through the beautiful and freakish world that Jeunet and Caro have created. It's a strange film of contrasts, clashing horror with love and suspense with comedy, but it's a very original work that proves to be both interesting and entertaining at the same time. It isn't particularly thought provoking, and at times it seems to be simply weird for the sake of being weird, but those with a taste for surrealist black comedy should embrace the film with open arms.



Delicatessen is presented for this region one release in a very nice 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Jeunet and Caro's unique visual style is well captured by this exceptional disc. There is the occasional instance of artifacting or grain here and there, but for the most part it's clear, colorful and just beautiful to look out. Shadow detail is strong even when there is some really mild print damage in a scene or two and aliasing, while present, isn't overpowering or too distracting at all.


The film is presented, as it should be, in it's original French language with easy to read English subtitles. Mixed in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, it's a pretty solid track with some decent mild surround effects coming from the left and right channels. The score comes through nicely, with the music balanced properly against the dialogue and the sound effects, one never really overpowering the other at any given time.


The good news is that Miramax have ported over all of the supplements from the fine R2 release that came out a couple of years ago, the bad news is that they've added nothing else in terms of supplements which means that those who already own that release really don't have much of a reason to upgrade.

At any rate, first up is a running director's commentary (subtitled in English) from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who handles this chore alone with out the aid of his co-director, Marc Caro, who apparently hates commentary tracks and for that reason did not participate. Jeunet is interesting to listen to and talks about a lot of the themes and ideas that the pair wanted to work into the film and his feelings on how they turned out in the final product. He also covers how, when it was all said and done, he and Caro realized that they'd made a film that had scenes in it that might be familiar, maybe a little too familiar, to a few specific older movies though he states that this is completely coincidental.

There is also a great making of featurette entitled Fine Cooked Meats: A Nod To Delicatessen which is a retitled version of the Fine Slices (and Delicacies) from Diane Bertrand making of documentary that was on the PAL release. It's presented here in French (with easy to read English subtitles) and it runs about thirteen minutes long. For a shorter piece, there is quite a bit of interesting information and gives us a nice look at the filmmakers in action. The most interesting part is seeing how some of the locations and sets were shot and how the filmmakers got the 'perfect look' that they were going for with this project. This clocks in at thirteen and a half minutes in length and is well worth checking out, if only for the sequences where they need to shoot in and around water.

The other main extra is an almost nine minute clip of 'Archive Footage from the archives of Jean-Pierre Jeunet' which is a compilation of screen tests and rehearsals presented here for more for completions sake than anything else as they're really not all that interesting. Those who enjoy watching people read lines in front of a camera half heartedly might get a kick out of it and it's nice to see it here but it doesn't add much to the package overall though some of the location footage is very cool.

Rounding out the extra features are a theatrical trailer for the film, a handful of Delicatessen teasers spots, animated menus, and chapter stops.

Final Thoughts:

If you were patient and didn't spring for the PAL release of the film, then this domestic release from Miramax of Delicatessen comes highly recommended. Those who own the other disc won't find much reason to upgrade here but those who don't should enjoy the supplements and the very nice audio and video presentation that the film has received. The movie itself holds up really well, making this one highly recommended!

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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