'Delicatessen' wins with cast, humor

By Joshua Dalton

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Cannibalism is not often something that can be laughed at. However, the French film "Delicatessen" manages to paint a twisted, absurd, and completely oddball black comedy on the subject. Yet beyond the cannibalism, debut directors Marc Caro and Jean Pierre Jeunet create a touching love story.

"Delicatessen" is the tale of an apartment complex in post-apocalypse France in which the main source of food is new residents. The butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who is almost a mayor figure in the building, kills tenants off and then sells the meat to the rest of the habitants, who are well aware of the practice.

All is well and good until the butcher's mousy but beautiful daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), falls in love with the newest resident, an out-of-work circus performer named Stanley Louison (Dominique Pinon). The conflict erupts. And when this is combined with other subplots and obscure characters, there emerges a bizarre story that is entertaining even at its lowest points.

"Delicatessen" boasts a cast that enhances nearly every aspect of the film. The best performances are given by Dougnac and Pinon. Their early interaction is simply fun to watch. And later, the love they radiate for each other is believable to the point of inspiration. Also, Dreyfus and his henchman, the mail carrier (Chick Ortega), are genuinely sinister. Not only do they act evil, but they look it as well.

The ugliness that adds to the detestability of the villains is only the beginning of the visual triumphs of "Delicatessen." The mixture of solid browns, reds, blues, and yellows entrances the eye, drawing the viewer in. The one kiss between Julie and Stanley is also enhanced by its surreal beauty. Being the only scene in the film that takes place in a white room, the contrast is wonderfully drastic and enhances the purity of the true love between them.

The camera work itself is also entertaining. The use of wide lenses provides a rich screen on which the film takes place. There are also times the camera locks on a moving object, making the motion in the scene take place completely in the background.

Perhaps what separates "Delicatessen" from most black comedies and foreign films, and what makes it more entertaining, is that it doesn't have to be scrutinized to be enjoyed. There are surface aspects that make this a watchable film for anyone, not just media arts majors.

The only faults of "Delicatessen" lie in its sometimes slow-moving plot and its extreme absurdity. However, it is a rewarding experience for anyone that watches until the very end.

"I Like to Watch" is a regular alterNation arts feature that recommends favorite films on video.

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