Precious Bodily Fluids

Delicatessen (Marc Caro + Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1991)

Delicatessen

An aesthetic of stylized trash set in a dystopic, post-apocalyptic France overwhelmed with a warm red-orange-green color scheme. Terry Gilliam meets Time Burton, and then some. It’s a live-action cartoon, warped, overly filtered, highly stylized. Sounds function as the abnormal but regular heartbeat of a social space. The synchronized rhythms move toward a climax and collapse, with each individual only fleetingly aware of the effect of the whole upon the individual. Bed springs, rolling paint, cello strings, rug beating, bike pump, metronome, industrial machinery, knitting needles, and an animal noisemaker work as a carnivalesque symphony. The main character, Louison, is a cousin of Chaplin, an optimistic fool surrounded by a crumbling world, except he survives less by accident and more by his acrobatic skill and quick wits. The sad but hopeful clown brings beauty and wonder to purgatory. On the margins and in the belly of this purgatory are visions of hell and the grotesque in full blossom. Formally, there are some long shots, but the very busy and ornate mise-en-scene keep the eye working and looking, rarely bored. Fisheye lenses warp characters and spaces that almost don’t need it, amplifying the effect that this is an off-kilter world. This is not primarily a cinema of narrative but of stuff (mise-en-scene) and image (filters, lenses, and colors) and characters (quirk, as they say). The film constructs a cohesive if strange world, one almost reminiscent of painting but unavoidably photographed. (Paintings don’t have lenses.) Its opening credit of “Caro & Jeunet” foregrounds the auteur duo almost casually, not unlike “Un film de Almodóvar” before those of the Spanish director, eschewing first names. (Even Tarantino always includes “Quentin,” doesn’t he?)

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This entry was published on June 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm. It’s filed under 1990s Cinema, French Film and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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