DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Delicatessen - ARTFULLY RECOMMENDED

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, May 3, 2006.

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  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]
    Delicatessen
    Studio: Buena Vista Year:1991 RunTime:99 minutes Rating:RAspect Ratio: 16x9 encoded 1.85:1 Audio: 2.0 DD French (English Subtitles) SpecialFeatures: Director Commentary (in French with English Subtitles), making-of featurette, audition footage, theatrical trailers ReleaseDate: Available



    Apology: I got this title only a week before it streeted and with everything going on (including springing my wrist digging a foundation for my shed making it difficult to type) I missed getting this up prior to the DVD’s release. I ask your forgiveness!



    Feature...



    Delicatessen is a bizarre film that mixes the macabre with farce. It's a hard film to categorize...it can be enjoyed as a visual masterpiece, an off-beat comedy, or some strange human-interest story. Imagine a mélange of “Brazil”, “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover” and Sweeney Todd. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world that would appear to be set in the future except for the 1960’s styling. I think that director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (who also directed Amelie) was intending to be abstract about the context…and instead focus his attention (and the viewer’s) on the visuals and the characters in his film.

    Delicatessen feels like an exercise in audio/visual stimuli…with a story tagging along for the ride. Images are powerful and jarring. No scene, and I mean no scene, is happenstance… every camera angle and composition is carefully chosen. And it feels that way. And though self-conscious, the film manages to avoid airs of pretentiousness. Watching Delicatessen is something like watching the Fifth Element or the recent Pride and Prejudice adaptation…the images speak for themselves and at one level the movie can be appreciated as a pure visual work of art.

    Jeunet doesn’t content himself with potent imagery alone. He also brings in an equally unconventional use of sound such that it becomes its own character with its own personality. Whether its dripping faucets, or squeaking bed springs, or clanging steam pipes, rather than using sound as a reinforcement tool the way conventional film-making employs, the director uses sound as a primary character that draws your attention and refuses to be subject to any other aspect of the film.

    One scene in particular that stresses this elevation of sound and visuals as key players is the montage near the film’s beginning: the whole apartment building resonates in tandem with the landlord's bed-rhythm during a lovemaking session. This montage is one of the most iconic uses of image, sound, and inter-cut scene changes in movie history and deserves recognition. If it strikes you as stylistically cliché don’t be fooled…good things often get imitated. Here’s a fun quiz: Tell me if you can recall which scene from the Fifth Element duplicates this same pattern (which happens to be my favorite sequence from that film as well).

    Delicatessen is art-filmmaking at its best. On the one hand it’s brazen, bold, and uninhibited about establishing its own language in which to be read. On the other hand, it’s not so lofty or removed that “regular” people can’t enjoy it and derive entertainment from the story while appreciating some of its finer qualities of craft along the way. If you haven’t seen Delicatessen but you’ve enjoyed films like "Brazil" or "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover", I encourage you to give it a go.

    As always, I look forward to having you share your own comments with us in this thread.


    Picture...


    Something is going very right with this Miramax DVD.

    This appears to be the most “unfiltered” live-action Disney title I’ve yet seen. It’s not razor-sharp like your new Matrix DVD set, but not to be alarmed…the DVD looks like it is being VERY faithful to the film source material. I can rarely say this with Miramax DVD titles, but mid and far-ground facial detail is remarkably preserved. Very impressive.

    I also notice no obvious edge ringing and only once or twice did my eyes catch hint of a “color banding” issue during a fade in/out of black—and don’t let that upset you too much because the HDMI input on my BenQ projector is more sensitive to banding issues than what most viewers will see (and still it was hardly an issue). Curiously, I noticed no film grain at all though I don’t think this is a case of DNR…I think that the film elements must have looked this way given the gorgeous fine-object detail still coming through.

    The misty, other-worldly depth of the film is preserved well on this DVD which is also a refreshing surprise. Many of the scenes were shot with lenses and camera angles to produce an enhanced sense of depth, and this comes through nicely. Black level is fine though the contrast range feels slightly compressed…but I think that this might be a reflection of the film source material and not one of authoring/mastering the digital capture.

    Don’t be alarmed: Colors are supposed to look this way. Jeunet loves to play with altered color pallets and (just like with Amelie and his other films) he does so here. Everything is warmer than real-life, as if some orange-brown glaze had been smeared over this strange alternate world. That’s what he wanted. That’s what you get here (BTW, many films alter color which makes flesh-tone discussions moot in cases like Delicatessen, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix etc.).

    Fine job Miramax. Viewers with smaller screens might not rave because this film doesn’t give you eye-popping colors like finding Nemo, nor razor-sharp edges like the Matrix. But this DVD does give you an image that looks very much like film from my 1.6 screen-width viewing distance (106” screen), and wide-angle viewers with projection systems (or those of you who sit closer to your plasma or RP displays to get inside that 1.75:1 distance:screen-width ratio) will probably be impressed by the natural, detailed, film-like character of the image.


    Picture Quality: 4.75 / 5

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    Rating Rationale...


    Rating Key:

    SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch even on a 32” 4x3 480I TV. Think Outland or Jean De Flourette (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl, PAL-NTSC conversion artifacts etc.)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Kill Bill Vol 1. 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements limited only by DVD’s 720 x 480 resolution. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW" and ask you if they are watching HD. Think The Empire Strikes Back, the Fifth Element Superbit or the new Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition.



    Viewing Equipment:
    Currently running DVDs on my OPPO DVD player (Faroudja deinterlacing) which scales to 720P, feeding my BenQ 8700+ PJ via DVI, projecting onto a 106” 16x9 Dalite HiPower screen, viewed from approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance. Well mastered DVDs produce a stunningly film-like image in this scenario, and lesser-mastered material quickly shows its flaws.







    Sound...


    The 2.0 Dolby Digital French audio track is your only option. I assume that it faithfully replicates the film’s original 2.0 surround mix, and it certainly sounds exquisite (I’d take a good 2.0 mix over a poor 5.1 remix anyday). It’s sounds very “PCMish” in that the tonal character is clean and much of the special cues in many of the sound effects come through naturally and don’t sound obviously diminished given the Dolby Digital compression (though I can’t compare against the laserdisc since I don’t own it). Non-French speakers have the option of English subtitles only, so this may be a limitation for Spanish or other viewers who may have difficulty with the English Subs.

    Dialogue is clear and the soundtrack has good frequency response and presents a nice left/right spread over the front soundstage. The mix also spread front/back much more than the typical 2.0 mix (I listened in Dolby ProLogic II playback) and were it not for the 2.0 LED on the receiver I would just have assumed I was engaged with a very pleasing 5.1 mix. Surround use is reasonably active and used frequently for ambient cues to define the acoustic space and context for many on-screen visuals.


    Sound Quality: 5 / 5

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    Listening Equipment:
    B&K AVR 212 processor/receiver driving my Onix-Rocket Loudspeaker system.



    Special Features...



    • [​IMG] Feature Commentary: Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s scene-specific commentary is presented in French with optional English Subtitles. His commentary is a pleasure and covers a nice range of all the usuals that fans would want to know…everything from casting to technical issues behind special effects to metaphysical symbolism in the story. Enjoy.



      [​IMG] Fine-Cooked Meats: A Nod To Delicatessen:Recommended for all viewers. This is a fantastic making-of documentary, much above the usual cut. It’s in the original French with optional English Subtitles and contains many behind-the-scenes footage shot on-set during the making of the feature film along with lots of cast and crew conversation. If you’ve taken the time to see the movie, do yourself a favor and spend a few more minutes with this feature.


      The Archives Of Jean-Pierre Jeunet: This is a fun look at the audition tapes of some of the lead actors in the film. Enjoyable for anyone who’s a fan of any of the actors or who would enjoy seeing what some of these people actually look like out of their “movie” makeup. Optional English Subtitles.


      Theatrical Trailer: In all of it’s 4x3 encoded glory. Notice the very different color balance of the trailers versus the feature film. Optional English Subtitles.






    All Together...


    Delicatessen is an art film that’s uncompromising and accessible at the same time. It’s a pleasing mixture of jarring storylines, provocative visuals, and a bit of humor. If you’ve seen this film and are hoping that Miramax/Disney has done right by it on DVD, you’re quest has ended happily. If you haven’t seen this film but are curious what other types of movies “that guy who did Amelie” has made or enjoy taking the risk with edgy art-films to pass an evening’s time, I would encourage you give Delicatessen a try.



    Artfully Recommended
     
  2. MarkHarrison

    MarkHarrison Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the great review David. Jeunet is one of my favorite directors and I can't wait to add this to my collection. Glad to see it get such a great review.
     
  3. John Alderson

    John Alderson Supporting Actor

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    I saw this film about 15 years ago, and absolutely did not "get" it. I am now a gigantic fan of Amelie and A Very Long Engagement... I hardly remember Delicatessen (I was in high school). I may have to do a pseudo blind buy on this... I bet it's my kind of film now. [​IMG]
     
  4. David_Blackwell

    David_Blackwell Screenwriter

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    I watched this film on DVD for the first time last Friday. I loved it.
     
  5. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    What soda company used this some montage for one of their commercials? [​IMG]
     
  6. Jason Borchers

    Jason Borchers Second Unit

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  7. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Chris,

    I seem to recall that...but my mind draws a blank. Refresh my memory!

    Jason,

    glad to see you like the PQ. After reviewing so many Miramax DVDs that *really* fall below the bar, I was so pleasantly surprised with this DVD treat on the projection screen. My last encouter with Delicatessen was a worn-out P/S VHS!

    -dave [​IMG]
     
  8. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    David,
    That would be Pepsi. I don't remember everything in it, except for a girl on a pogo stick and a bottle of Pepsi on top of a refrigerator. I also remember seeing it for the first time, I think it was a Superbowl spot, and immediately thinking of Delicatessen.
     
  9. Jason Borchers

    Jason Borchers Second Unit

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  10. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    If it's OK to ask here: can anyone say how this transfer compares to the R2 one? Thanks. I am the guy who gave up waiting and bought the R2 like a day before the R1 was announced, I'm sure I caused it, I can wash my car if you need it to rain...
     
  11. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Craig,

    thanks for taking action to ensure that an R1 DVD was released!

    [​IMG]

    If anyone can compare I'd welcome it too. DVD beaver often compares R1/R2 and this title seems right up their alley.

    BTW, the R1 is truely a gorgeous picture...even with that added resolution of PAL the R1 might hold up well if the same film-digital transfer was used. Also the lack of speedup on the R1 might give it the edge if other aspects are more-or-less equal.

    Of course...I'm really wondering how long before a blu-ray edition... [​IMG]
     
  12. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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    Great review, as always, David! I totally agree on the pic and sound quality - top notch and a wonderful surprise for a Miramax title. I hope the folks over there here our comments loud and clear and continue in this direction of quality.

    The film had me for almost 1/2 of its length - in some ways, a wonderful blend of Lynch and Tati, but wholly original. But it seemed to lose me in the second 1/2...not sure why...just wasn't as interested for some reason. Still worth a rent, and for fans, a very easy buy!
     

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