Friday, January 26, 2007

Weekly Movie Night 2(&3)

The weekly movie this last week was the French film Delicatessen, by the writing/directing duo of Marc Caro and Jean Pierre Juenet. This wasn't the first film these two had done together, they'd already made 4 other films in their native country. I came across this one about 5 years after it had been made, by way of their next, more ambitious film; City Of Lost Children. City of Lost Children is a movie that always stood out to me at the video store, but I never rented for the longest time. I was under some misguided idea that it was a National Geographic documentary, due to it's inclusion in the 'special interest' section of Blockbuster, not the Fantasy, Foreign, or even Horror sections to which it is better suited.

Delicatessen is a fairly quiet film, considering it's about cannibalism in the post apocalypse, and it's greatest strengths come out during it's long patches of dialog-free visuals. It could almost work as a silent film, with some truly spectacular set pieces. I'm thinking of the early bit where the new handyman is painting the ceiling, while the Butcher and his Mistress have sex on the top floor. Some rusty pipes carry the sound of creaking springboards through the building, and very quickly the actions of everyone in the building(knitting, painting, playing music, pumping air into a bicycle tire) are keeping in time with the pace set by upstairs tryst. But even more subtle examples, such as when the aforementioned handyman is summoned to fix the bed, and tries to find the specific squeaky spring by bouncing on the bed softly and shifting his weight. It's really a small scene, but something about it: the way it's edited, the music, lends it a charming, old time musical air.

Dominique Pinon, as the ex-clown handyman harboring some pretty major grief over the death of his performing partner, is excellent. And he's been excellent in every film I've seen him in, which sadly only amounts to three movies. Watching this movie over again I decided to rectify that error, and at the earliest possible moment I will be hunting down and renting as many as I can find.

The next week, based on the overall positive reception of Delicatessen, and my insistence that it is the better film, we watched City of Lost Children. The basic plot involves a circus strongman(Ron Perlman) who is trying to find his little brother, who has been kidnapped by blind men for a mad scientist who lives on what is basically a modified oil rig in the middle of the ocean. The mad scientist, Krank, needs the children so he can steal their dreams, which he has never had, making him prematurely old. He lives with 6 clones(Dominique Pinon), a dwarf, and a migraine-stricken brain in a box that seems to be the only sane one of the bunch. How can I not love this film?!
Juenet and Caro love cause and effect scenes. In Delicatessen one of the running jokes was a frazzled housewife who went to increasingly intricate lengths to kill herself, only to fail in equally intricate ways. In City of Lost Children, many plot points will unravel in Rube Goldbergian domino effects, so that the single tear of a child can cause havoc through a large part of the city which will in turn cause her salvation. It's clear through the detail given to these portions of the film that the two probably spend their free time dreaming up ways to win domino championships.

Although Delicatessen is the preferred film of just about everyone I know, and I can appreciate that the story is tighter, it just doesn't move me in the same way that City of Lost Children does. I love fairy tales, apparently, and this is one dark, twisted, warm fairy tale from start to finish. That doesn't make it a family film, because plenty of stuff in this movie would scare the hell out of little kids. Actually, that isn't always true, kids can absorb a lot, and we adults tend to underestimate their tolerance. What we find creepy they find cool. Still, I didn't let my three year old watch it.

No comments: