6'l‘he List 31 January- 13 February 1992

Eating people is wrong’. Or is it? Not according to the makers of Delicatessen. the latest cult film from France. Nigel Floyd relishes the delights ofcannibalistic comedy.

maginatively designed, darkly

atmospheric and driven by the

manic energy of a sado-slapstick

Tex Avery cartoon. Delicatessen is

the debut feature from J ean-Pierre

Jeunet and Marc Caro. The film fuses the modern stylishness of Diva or Subway with a more venerable tradition of French culinary cinema. With its references to the many lingered-over meals in Claude Chabrol’s films and the gormandising excesses of Marco Ferreri‘s La Grande Bouffe, this tasty morsel might be called Nouvelle Cannibalism: not very substantial or filling, but beautifully presented and bound to leave you wanting more.

The inspiration for Delicatessen was a casual remark made by Jeunet‘s wife when she and her husband were living above a butcher’s shop. They were constantly waking to the metallic sound ofhim sharpening his knives and she said jokingly that the butcherwas probably murdering all the other tenants, and that they‘d better move out before he got them too. From this single idea, Jeunet and Caro have created a complete, contained world which has much in common with the retro-future visions of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or David Lynch’s Eraserhead. The setting is a stylised. almost fantastical vision of France during the Depression, but with many technological anomalies. So when exactly is it set? “1930’ offers Jeunet playfully, echoing Gilliam’s original title for Brazil-1984. ‘Actually, it’s sort ofa parallel universe: somewhere between 1930 and 1990. something went askew, so these people are living in a 19305 world where there are modern inventions like contact lenses. televisions and remote controls.’

Into this bizarre world steps ex-circus entertainer Louison (Dominique Pinon), who takes a room above an isolated butcher’s shop surrounded by empty streets and demolished buildings. Unbeknown to him, there is a high turnover of guests at the butcher’s lodging house. several ofwhom disappear mysteriously late at night. The naive Louison, however. makes himself useful as an odd-job man about the house and soon falls for the butcher’s pretty. cello-playing daughter. Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac). Meanwhile. Louison‘s fellow tenants— the morose Kube brothers. the poor Tapioca family. and the snail-eating Monsieur Potin smack their lips and look

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