What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this dark comedy-fantasy is not always easy to follow -- maybe a good thing, as it uses hints and innuendo rather than in-your-face gore to show a starving society where cannibalism reigns. Meat cleavers and knives are fondled menacingly, but onscreen violence is limited to one gunshot, hand-to-hand fighting, and a blade in a forehead, all pretty bloodless. One character is obsessed with committing suicide, and attempts (usually failing) in numerous comical ways. The villain's sexual intercourse is signified via montage of squeaky bedsprings and rhythmic chores. There are a few swear words (including the f-word). In bad-dream sequences viewers see a chimpanzee (not a very cute one, but a "pet" nonetheless) whom, we are told, was killed and eaten. A few characters (including children) smoke.
What's the story?
In a dusty, autumnal landscape -- maybe the aftermath of nuclear war or other global environmental disaster -- on the outskirts of a city, a semi-ruined apartment tenement stands with a delicatessen on the first floor run by the butcher-landlord Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus). With livestock and crops apparently extinct, people in this struggling society subsist on either hoarded grains or by eating other people. Clapet's solution: He continually lures job-seekers to work as handymen, whom he soon murders to turn into the meat served to the building's weird mini-community of tenants. The latest applicant to Clapet's want-ad is Louison (Dominique Pinon), an impish ex-circus clown, unemployed since his chimp partner was killed and eaten after their act. Louison's good nature and talents endear him to the tenants, especially Clapet's estranged, adult daughter Julie. She contacts an anti-cannibalism underground resistance to rescue the innocent clown before he becomes a morsel.
Is it any good?
A sardonic satire on what happens when the dog-eat-dog world becomes a human-eat-human world instead, DELICATESSEN is a film best left to older teens and adults. The movie comes across like a Tim Burton fantasy aimed squarely at grownups. There's a playfulness and whimsy to all the grotesqueries, but it seems geared more to adult attention spans and intellects, as the loose-jointed plot often turns to people doing (or being) puzzling things, like a weird old man in the building's flooded basement reigning over colonies of frogs and snails, or a last-minute revelation that a motiveless murder plot had been afoot all along amidst two minor characters. There are few easy answers -- and the ending leaves things a bit up in the air, in more ways than one. But the film casts a weird spell that is not soon forgotten.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the message of the film. Does it say anything about the way the world is now?
Are the butcher Clapet and his clients "evil," or just victims of circumstances and desperation, as Louison suggests (before he finds out that he's on the menu)?
Talk to young people about vegetarianism. Does this movie make a strong anti-meat, animal-rights statement? Does it make viewers feel differently about what they are eating?