It Takes Some Kind of Gaul

Gleefully twisted

Something happened to Jean-Pierre Jeunet on the way back from Hollywood. Something . . . gooey. True, his more recent efforts (Amelie, A Very Long Engagement) still include a cockeyed sense of whimsy and a delicious visual style that make them stand out from the art-house pack, yet they're different—different from the films he made with collaborator Marc Caro, prior to his ill-fated 1997 trip to studioville as director of Alien: Resurrection. (Not a total disaster, mind you, but as anyone who's read Joss Whedon's first-draft screenplay knows, it wasn't that film.) The Jeunet/Caro films were deeper, richer, darker fairy tales more akin to the Brothers Grimm than Disney; The City of Lost Children has been available in a decent DVD package for a while, but this week we finally get a special-edition treatment of Delicatessen.

From its gleefully twisted pre-titles sequence—shifty, bug-eyed fella tries to disguise himself as garbage to escape a murderous butcher's meat cleaver—Delicatessen unnerves and enchants in equal measure. Set in a post-apocalyptic France seemingly stuck in the 1940s, the entire tale takes place in and below an apartment block above the eponymous shop; with meat gone scarce, cannibalism has become de rigueur, and the unscrupulous owner (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) has resorted to occasionally picking off tenants. Gentle Louison (Jeunet staple Dominique Pinon), a clown on the run from his past, looks to be next up on the menu unless the butcher's daughter (Marie-Laure Dougnac), who is smitten with him, can figure out a way to save his skin. Jeunet and Caro flesh out their blackly comedic film with a host of eccentric characters, wildly creative camera work and dank, dreamlike visuals. (Cinematography is by the great Darius Khondji.) The new release features commentary by Jeunet (in French with English subtitles), as well as a compilation of auditions and on-set behind-the-scenes footage.

Also recommended this week: Cat On a Hot Tin Roof; King of the Hill: Season 6; The Lucy & Desi Collection; Night of the Iguana; A Streetcar Named Desire.

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