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Film / Delicatessen

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Long Pork, anyone?

Delicatessen is a 1991 French absurdist Black Comedy directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro.

Set in a post-apocalyptic apartment building in a France of an ambiguous time period, the film focuses on the tenants of the apartment building and their desperate bids to survive. The protagonist, a former circus artist named Louison, arrives to replace a tenant whose reason for departure is initially unclear. However, it is gradually revealed that the building owner, Clapet, is luring unemployed people to murder them and use them as a source of food for his tenants. Louison's only hope for salvation is Julie, Clapet's daughter who doesn't agree with her father's actions and is also in love with Louison, and a vegetarian rebel group known as the Troglodistes who agree to help Julie rescue Louison in exchange for Clapet's grain stores.

Not to be confused with Delicacy.

Delicatessen provides examples of:

  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: Where the Troglodistes live. They need boats to traverse the pipelines, and the chamber where they interrogate Julie is practically cathedral-sized.
  • Accidental Suicide: Aurore spends the entire movie trying to kill herself, but her attempts are always thwarted leading her to get more and more elaborate with her attempts until she's building full-on Death Traps. Her final one includes a combination of swallowing pills while facing a gun set to go off, while she stands with her neck in a noose, with the gas on and a lit Molotov cocktail just under her. Subverting all expectations, she only dies because her husband, not knowing what she's doing, enters the room and turns on the light, igniting the gas and blowing them both up in the process, making this an Accidental Murder and Accidental Suicide twofer.
  • After the End: Vaguely. Some aspects of society are still operating; there's a TV station on the air, there's electricity, the mail is still running (although the mailman has to use a gun to defend himself while making his rounds), and there's motorized transport so gasoline is still being distributed. But also, the boarding house stands amidst bombed-out ruins, there's a yellow haze over everything, and the food situation is so bad that people are eating each other.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The Troglodistes use suction cups to climb up the ducts of the apartment, running into some problems as they do so.
  • Almost Kiss: When Louison and Julie are holding the door, and a spear suddenly goes through it, between them.
  • Alternate History: ...probably. The story takes place after an apocalyptic gas attack wipes out most life in Europe, but the vehicles, clothes and technology all seem to be from the 1960s, suggesting either a World War 3 or a displaced World War 2.
  • Antenna Adjusting: The TV sets in the apartment rarely get a good signal. When Clapet enacts his plan to kill Louison, he violently shakes the rooftop antenna so that he will come to the roof to fix it. When the antenna gets used as an Improvised Weapon and the two wrestle with it, it's Played for Laughs when Madame Tapioca shouts up directions at them about how to adjust it.
  • Apartment Complex of Horrors: After some vague apocalyptic event, Louison the clown finds a job as a handyman in a small apartment building where troubles range from the mundane (kids playing pranks), to the surreal (a tenant who makes numerous unsuccessful suicide attempts, a man living in a sealed off apartment with his pet frogs), to the potentially deadly (the tenants are mostly cannibals, and the butcher who owns the place plans to put Louison on the menu).
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Mademoiselle Plusse seems oddly disappointed that the Troglodytes aren't interested in doing anything dirty to her.
  • Attempted Rape: Postman tries to force himself on Julie, but Louison manages to stop him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Clapet's reign of terror may be over, but there's a finite supply of corn and it won't hold out forever. However, the yellow gas is less oppressive in the final scene.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Julie is mostly blind without her glasses, with everything appearing as a blurry haze. This sets up a series of gags when Louison comes over for dinner, with Julie taking off her glasses to look prettier, only to do stuff like miss Louison's cup when she's pouring coffee.
  • Bungled Suicide: Aurore's suicide plans are repeatedly ruined at the last second by some random event. Except for the last one, and its success didn't even have anything to do with her.
  • The Butcher: Clapet's occupation. He's called Le Boucher, and he butchers people.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Julie has a truly disturbing one in which her father strings up Louison and slaughters him like a pig.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The boomerang. It serves first to get back Mademoiselle Plusse's panties, but also at the end to kill Clapet.
  • Color Wash: Almost every frame of the movie is awash in golden light. This is probably an effect of whatever caused the apocalypse.
  • Crapsack World: Something's happened to render the world a disaster zone, where cannibalism is one of the few reliable food sources and grain is so rare it's used as money.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The original opening credits using household items to display cast and crew names.
  • Dirty Kid: Both of the Tapioca boys. They steal Mme. Plusse's underwear.
  • Driven to Suicide: Aurore hears voices constantly telling her to kill herself, which drives her to construct ever more complicated ways of doing it, all of which fail.
  • Drowning Pit: Louison and Julie lock themselves in a bathroom, waterproof the room with their clothes, and then break open the pipes. It's a trap for Clapet and the tennants who are trying to break in, but they will drown inside if the door isn't opened in time.
  • Electrified Bathtub: Aurore constructs a rather elaborate way of doing this to commit suicide, lying in the bathtub and attaching the motor of a sewing machine to the doorbell, so that when someone rings the bell the sewing machine pulls a piece of cloth down, with a lamp balanced on the end of it so the lamp is pulled closer to the tub. It doesn't work because Louison bangs the bed in the next room against the wall, causing the lamp to come unplugged and fall into the bath harmlessly.
  • Epic Fail: Aurore's final suicide attempt, in which multiple redundant methods cancel each other out. To add insult to injury, she and her husband subsequently blow themselves up completely by accident.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Clapet loves his daughter and tries the best to make her happy, despite she is greatly against his methods of feeding the tenants.
  • Females Are More Innocent: While all of the five women in the apartment are complicit in the cannibalism, only one of them actively joins the four men trying to harm Louison in the climax while two others help save him.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Played with. Julie takes her glasses off when she first invites Louison to her room for tea. Without them she can't see a thing and ends up overfilling their teacups and breaking a vase. She eventually ditches them for contact lenses. God knows how she got her hands on those.
  • Hearing Voices: Aurore hears voices which tell her to kill herself. They are actually caused by her neighbor Roger.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Clapet is killed by his own throw of the Australian.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Resounds all through the house.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: After getting the Australian lodged in his forehead when he attempted to throw it at Louison, Clapet staggers for a couple minutes—bewildered but not obviously in pain—asking those present if he has something stuck in his head.
  • Men of Sherwood: The troglodytes are a bunch of identically dressed men who put themselves in danger helping the protagonists avoid being killed by some dangerous people in the climax (although their bumbling nature keeps them from providing that much help), and only one of them dies.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Louison's previous job, which he quit when his chimpanzee partner Dr. Livingstone was eaten.
  • Nature Versus Nurture: Discussed. Clapet muses with Mademoiselle Plusse about what kind of person he is given what he does with the cannibalism and that it's just the circumstances forcing him to do those things, but it comes off less like he's repenting the extreme measures he's taking to stay alive, and more like he's rationalizing them to feel better about himself. Besides, he shows a sadistic glee when he's after human meat.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Spoofed when Julie walks in on Louison and Madamoiselle Plusse performing his "Tika Tika Walk," a goofy dance involving maracas, a ukulele, and Louison wearing a fake leg. Julie reacts like she caught them making out, and runs when Louison tries to explain... well, something.
  • One-Word Title
  • Panty Thief: The two boys steal Mademoiselle Plusse's panties from the clothes line using a fishing hook, much to her consternation.
  • Pet the Dog: The old man who eats the snails and frogs he raises (apparently due to refusing to join in the cannibalism) releases his remaining pets/potential eats after the butcher's downfall.
  • Right Through the Wall: The sound of creaking bedsprings travels through the whole apartment. Afterwards Louison is asked to look at the problem and make the springs stop squeaking.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: Ensues during the climax.
  • Serendipitous Symphony: Clapet and Mademoiselle Plusse's rhythmically creaking bedsprings cause Julie's cello playing, Madame Tapioca's rug-beating, Robert and Roger's shop work, and Marcel's bicycle pumping to unconsciously synchronize. As the creaking becomes more frantic everybody speeds up with them.
  • Suicide as Comedy: Aurore's repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to kill herself.
  • Suspender Snag: Exploited by Louison when he's painting a hard-to-reach ceiling. He hooks his suspenders onto a nearby pipe to balance himself on top of a ladder (which works great, until the end of the "squeaky bed" scene when he falls on his face).
  • Trash the Set: Large parts of the building are demolished during the climactic fight.
  • Underwater Kiss: Between Julie and Louison when they flood themselves in the bathroom.
  • Video Credits: The opening credits are a slow pan through the delicatessen, with individual names on various implements therein.
  • Villain Opening Scene: The movie has a Cold Open where Clapet sharpens his knife while his latest victim tries to escape in a passing garbage truck. He doesn't hide well enough, and the film jumps to the title just before Clapet's knife comes down.


Video Example(s):


Bedspring Symphony

Clapet and Mademoiselle Plusse's rhythmically creaking bedsprings cause Julie's cello playing, Madame Tapioca's rug-beating, Robert and Roger's shop work, and Marcel's bicycle pumping to unconsciously synchronize. As the creaking becomes more frantic everybody speeds up with them.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / SerendipitousSymphony

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