I don’t remember how or why I chose Delicatessen as a Blind Spot entry, let alone December’s entry.
I do remember a lecturer at University showing my class a scene from Delicatessen. Something about editing, music and rhythm. Regardless, it must have had fantastic reviews or have stuck in my brain for some reason around this time last year for me to have chosen it.
The film is co-directed by the same director as Amelie (2001), possibly the most famous modern French film. That might have had something to do with my choice and it is definitely worth knowing before tackling Delicatessen. A film which is ten years older than Amelie.
The film takes place entirely within an apartment building, located in post-apocalyptic France. The Landlord, Clapet, is also a Butcher and runs a Butcher’s Shop on the ground floor of the apartment building. He’s frankly a bit of a dictator and isn’t a very pleasant man. In fact, he’s taken to posting jobs to work in in his Butcher’s shop in the local newspaper, lures in the willing candidates for the job, then murders them for their meat to sell to his tenants. Lovely.
Then along comes the very decent Louison, an unemployed Clown who quickly wins over the affections of Clapet’s daughter, Julie. He also turns out to be a pretty good worker so Clapet is reluctant to murder him, as you might expect. As Julie begins to suspect her father is up to no good, she seeks the aid of her father’s enemies… underground vegetarians…
The Post-Apocalyptic World
As I mentioned, the film revolves around this one apartment building with limited shots/scenes taking places outside. The apartment is set up like it’s own little political system of followers, leaders and a lot of power at stake. Food is a huge problem in this world, hence why the Butcher has taken to murdering unlucky wannabe-butchers. The postman also carries a gun, so you know that this is serious stuff.
Because the film is so centred on this building and the tenants in the building, it makes me wonder what exactly is outside. We can assume that the rest of the world is just as messed up, but actually, we don’t know for sure. Every time the film’s narrative takes us momentarily outside of the apartment, we don’t see much. There is actually mist surrounding the building. All of the focus is on this tiny little world and that generates more questions than answers.
The look and style of the film
Those who have seen Amelie will not be surprised to learn that this film is saturated as hell. Yellow is the tone of the day, with lots of red thrown in for good measure. Erm, why? Well, it’s a post-apocalyptic world… but also something to do with the influence of German Expressionism.
Aside from the look and the narrative, music and sound play a big role in Delicatessen. In one scene, the apartment folk are going about their daily activities in time with one another. One is inflating a bicycle wheel, others are playing instruments, one is knocking the dust out of a rug and others are… taking part in bedroom activities. The monotony of the rhythm that involved the entire building only adds to the dire nature of the tenants. They are trapped and they cannot escape their horrible truth.
The three main characters – Clapet, Louison and Julie – are quite straightforward, black and white characters. There are no redeeming features of Clapet. He is a power hungry, bullying, volatile dictator. And a murderer, don’t forget murderer. He’s very physically grotesque also. The cinematography often closes in on his face and his expressions aren’t the most pleasant.
Louison isn’t exactly a ‘hero’, nor does he perform wonderful acts of heroism or do anything particularly special. He’s just a good guy, following orders and trying to get by in this world.
Julie is the classic example of a Shrinking Violet, but I’m pleased to say I think she is the most complex character in the film. At first, she appears timid and plain but in between falling in love with Louison and playing the cello, she follows her heart to do what she thinks is right even if that means going up against her father.
Of course, both Julie and Louison prove their worth by the time the film is out. I think their apparent ‘ordinariness’ is what makes their journey throughout the film all the more interesting to watch.
This is my last ever Blind Spot entry! Sadly, I won’t be taking part in 2018. I just can’t keep up every month properly and I feel like my blog has moved away from this style of post.
But what did you think of Delicatessen? Let me know in the comments below!
Breathless (1960): November Blind Spot