Mar 5 2010

Article XVII – In Which Cannibalism is Still Funny

This little piggy?

Amelie (2001) is a whimsical little film about a waitress and her struggle with isolation and quest to enrich and fulfill the lives of those around her.  With an infectious smile and a quirky presentation, this film was considered one of the best of 2001 – as it was nominated by the Academy in five categories and received an amazing amount of critical acclaim.

I will not be reviewing that movie.

Delicatessen, on the other hand, is a 99 minute film about cannibalism in a post-apocalyptic world.  Is that what you came here for?  To see me review this kind of sick, twisted, yet oddly funny movie about the dangers of eating other people?  Of course it is.  I always give you what you want.  I’m training you, you see?  Like Pavlov’s dogs.  Every Friday, you’ll come back to me begging for more food film propaganda.  You think it doesn’t work?  You’re here, aren’t you?

The film’s plot is simple: a butcher puts out an ad in the paper for handymen to come and fix up his apartment complex.  When they are fattened up sufficiently, he murders them and distributes them amongst the tenants.  The tenants, of course, are ninety percent of the film, with their wildly eccentric personalities being the driving force of the story.

The other ten percent of the film is the beginning title credit, which features a swinging pig sign falling down in low light conditions above the Delicatessen title.  It is, without a doubt, one of the most effective title sequences I’ve ever seen.  The credits are also awesome, with the camera roving about a room with a lot of junk in it, stopping every so often to focus on the credit.  The sound designer’s name is on a broken record.  **Pause for laughter** The director of photography’s name is on an old still camera.  **Pause for more uproarious laughter**

A lot of the post-apocalyptic scenery reminded me a lot of the techniques used in Frankenstein with elaborate sets and painted skies, and when combined with the weird sepia tone of the film…we definitely get a post-apocalyptic feel.  Just about the entire film is shot with Dutch angles and skewed perspectives.  The sky looks like it was stained with radiation or gunpowder or some other unknown apocalyptic catalyst.  Come to think of it, the film never tells you what happened to make the world this way – it just kind of is.  Either war or nuclear Armageddon.  For once, there are no robots in sight.

The main attraction to this film has to be the characters.  Each tenant has his or her own subtle (or not so subtle) personality quirks that make them a slightly insane version of a real person.  My personal favorite is the man who lives in a closed off room that is flooded with water surrounded by snails and frogs.  Because of the food shortage, he eats both, and is extremely happy.  He also puts frog eyes (made from ping pong balls) over his own and uses a party blower covered in glue as a tongue to attract and possibly eat flies.

Yes, this is a self-portrait.

Insane?  No.  Now you know what my workspace and mannerisms are like.

Along with a rich woman who wants to commit suicide, a pair of brothers who make cow noise maker thingys, a family with a senile grandmother, a buxom seductress, and the insane butcher of men and his daughter, the cast of characters is really the best thing about the film.  Each character plays off each other so well and is such an exaggeration of real people that we’re given a kind of dreamlike quality to the film.

It doesn’t help that the main character is a former circus clown who is mourning the death of his best friend – the late Dr. Livingstone: his faithful chimpanzee companion.  There’s also a bit in there about the Troglodistes: an underground sewer-dwelling group of vegetarian guerillas who wear scuba gear and headlamps who seem to be little more than rumors to the above ground world, yet end up kidnapping people from the topside for corn.

The more I force the ghostwriter of this column to write about this movie, the weirder and weirder it gets to me.  There are a couple of dream sequences that give a terrifying feeling of inevitable cannibalism and death…but do it humorously.

I suppose when dealing with such a taboo topic as cannibalism, you have to treat it with levity and insanity, otherwise the movie might just be incredibly terrifying and uncomfortable to watch.  Think about Silence of the Lambs or Hannibal.  Uncomfortable right?  Now think about Ravenous and Cannibal: The Musical.  Eerily funny – right?  So it is with this film, as well.  In going so over the top, this film is borderline ridiculous while maintaining its uncomfortable feel.

There are no words for this image...none.

Is that enough of a review for you ravenous dogs?  Is there anything I’m missing?  Email my editor if you think there’s something I should add.  I’m sure your message will eventually get to me.  It has to.

I liked this film so much, I bought it. (Editor’s Note: If you really wanna know how much Fil likes a movie, count the number of snarky smartass comments.  The more he likes it, the less there are.) It’s sitting on my DVD shelf at home right this second.  It’s a great character study, it looks amazing, and it really is one of the quirkiest movies I’ve ever seen.  It’s also science-fiction.  Which, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but that’s kind of a big thing for me.  The only problem I really have with this movie is that it’s in French.  Now, before all my French readers cry foul and declare my column a “Gros ordure american de merde que je lirais pas de craint de mon cerveau tombant dehors mon nez” and boycott it – listen to what I was going to say.

Movies that are in languages that I cannot understand are not easy for me to watch.  They require intense concentration and will (neither of which are my strong suits) and the subtitles distract from the beautiful visuals which adorn my favorite foreign movies.  Pan’s Labyrinth, City of Lost Children, and most Japanese anime fall into this category.

Well.  What more do you want?  Get out of here – go about your lives, when you hear the bell and inexplicably your mouth starts watering for another of my succulent columns, just remember: you did this to yourselves.

And I may or may not have given you poison with your wine that, if I don’t give you the antidote in 1 week’s time, may kill you.

So, you know, I don’t really care if you show up next week or not.

But we both know you’ll be here.

You’d better.

3 Responses to “Article XVII – In Which Cannibalism is Still Funny”

  • Mitzi Says:

    Obviously, I don’t speak French. I just let the funky music do the talking. …that and a nice mix of babelfish, many dictionaries, and flipping frantically through my old le French book.

    I need to see this again at some point so I can focus on le characters and stop trying to figure out what happened. I realized too late it didn’t matter and at this point, it was the least of everyone’s problems.

  • Daniel Says:

    Delicatessen is one of my favorites. Nice job, man.

  • Bonnye Says:

    One of my favorite movies! And I like the french, it sounds much better than any english dubbing could.

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