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Foreign Comedy - France - Delicatessen - By the director of Amelie

Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Dominique Pinon
Directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet
French with English subtitles
France 1991
Lionís Gate 2008
99 minutes

When it comes to dark comedy nothing can beat Delicatessen, a French film by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (the latter being the director of Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulain). Amelie is as sunny and bright as Delicatessen is dark and comic. This foreign film comedy DVD includes English subtitles but also English subtitles of Jeunet’s commentaries on the Delicatessen experience.

Ironically, this dark comedy is also a romantic comedy and farce you can really sink your teeth into; that is because the humor in this French film is very noir. In an unspecified post apocalyptic France, the local butcher shop and the building it houses are the only signs of life around. Food is scarce and meat inexistent yet Clapet the butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) manages to keep his business going thanks to a series of assistants.

Louison, a young man and former clown, shows up at the delicatessen just when Clapet needs a new assistant. Clapet’s daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac) falls in love with Louison and enlists a band of very inept, sewer-dwelling vegetarians to save her beau.

There is a lot more to this foreign film comedy DVD than that. Jeunet, also known for Alien Resurrection, creates a very interesting environment both visually and in terms of characters.  The residents of the house are all very, very strange from the man who raises frogs and escargots to the Kube brothers who manufacture those little boxes that go moo and Aurore and her Rube Goldberg suicide machine.

There are quite a few original visual jokes in Delicatessen such as the condom repair scene or the little old lady knitting a shawl while it is slowly being unraveled so she can continue knitting. It is these little details that add veracity to the dark premise of this comedy. The funniest is the Bali-Hi mattress number

If there is a weak point in this French comedy it is the Troglodytes but they are farcical enough to be interesting.

Richard Lanoie

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