Delicatessen (1991)

Delicatessen is a 1991 French black comedy film, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, starring Dominique Pinon and Karin Viard. It is set in an apartment building in a post-apocalyptic France of an ambiguous time period. The story focuses on the tenants of the building and their desperate bids to survive. Among these characters is the newly arrived Louison, who arrives to replace a tenant whose reason for departure is initially unclear. The butcher, Clapet, is the leader of the group which strives to keep control and balance in the apartment building.

It is largely a character-based film, with much of the interest being gained from each tenant’s own particular idiosyncrasies and their relationship to each other.

Released in North America with a credit reading Terry Gilliam presents, the film – like its successor The City of Lost Children (1995) – is a deliberate homage to Gilliam.


Delicatessen begins in a dilapidated apartment building in post-apocalyptic France. Food is in short supply, with grain used as currency. In the ground floor of the apartment building is a butcher’s shop, run by the landlord, Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who posts job opportunities in the Hard Times paper as means to lure victims to the building, whom he murders and butchers as a cheap source of meat that he sells to his tenants.

Following the “departure” of the last worker, unemployed circus clown Louison (Dominique Pinon) arrives to apply for the vacant position. During his routine maintenance, he gradually befriends Clapet’s daughter, Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), a relationship which slowly blossoms into romance. Aware of her father’s motives and Louison’s imminent death, Julie descends into the sewers to make contact with the feared Troglodistes, a vegetarian sub-group of French rebels, whom she convinces to help rescue Louison.

Following the apparent death and butchering of an old woman, the Troglodistes return, and Mr. Clapet, with the remaining tenants of the building, storm Louison’s room in an attempt to murder him. Louison, aided by Julie, resists by flooding the bathroom until Clapet opens the door and he and the other tenants are momentarily carried away by the ensuing flood. Louison is able to narrowly avoid death as Clapet inadvertently kills himself with Louison’s weapon. The film ends with Louison and Julie playing music together on the roof of the now peaceful apartment building.

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Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film: