Delicatessen, and a few more movies

#182  [archive]


[DVD from the library]

Movies are more fun for me knowing as little as possible before pressing 'play' — expectations color the experience. It was surprising, then, that despite the title, Delicatessen is not about a lovable old couple who run a shop serving corned beef on rye and maybe a bowl of soup.

Soon as it started, with a messy-looking man in an apron sharpening his knives, I wondered if this was going to be a bloody gore movie, but — wrong again.

It's a surreal black comedy or lighthearted horror show, where nearly every moment is visually, audially, cinematically inventive. 

Out of work as a circus performer, our hero takes a job as handyman/janitor in a creepy but gorgeous old apartment building. What he doesn't know is that previous employees have ended up in the local butcher's meat-slicing apparatus.

Prepare for gruesomeness with a sense of humor, odd couple romance with a fabulous fiddle-and-saw duet, and bizarre, grotesque virtuoso visuals with swooping camerawork. Also, occasional screaming.

Delicatessen is never shy about abandoning the story for side stories, so long as the side stories are also odd. It feels a little like something from Terry Gilliam in French, and like Gilliam it can be a bit much, but that's part of the fun.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

My Life in Monsters (2015) 

[Streaming free]

This is a short documentary from Vice, about Hollywood stop-motion special effects guy Phil Tippett. He made my head hurt with Mad God, and before that made the cantina aliens and stop-motion chess set for Star Wars, and worked on flicks like Jurassic Park, RoboCop, Starship Troopers, etc.

Where athletes give credit to God, Tippett gives credit to LSD, so I gotta love the guy.

Citizen Kane is OK, sure, but there are times when you want a smidgen more razzle dazzle for the eye. All of his adult life, Tippett has brought impossible creatures to life and shown me things I'd only imagined. The film is 22 minutes long and he deserves more.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

[Streaming everywhere,
or buy the DVD for 25¢ at a garage sale]

My family knows that movies are my thing, so there's a once-monthly movie & lunch with my brother Clay, his wife Karen, and sometimes a few others.

Clay and Karen like ordinary movies and Christian movies, but they're kind enough to leave the Christian movies out of the mix (though they have shown previews, when we're watching movies at their house).

I love these people and enjoy spending a few hours with them, but the movies? Generally, not so much. We usually watch whatever's rated G and inoffensive to everyone, which are rarely the kind of films I prefer.

Last month, it was Sleepless in Seattle, an all-time champion of films inoffensive to everyone.

It's a romantic comedy with Tom Hanks as a grieving widower and perfect dad, raising the kind of perfect son only seen in movies. When the son notices his father's sadness, he calls a radio talk show, the host puts Dad on the air, and all of America listens and falls in love with Sad Hanks. 

Meg Ryan, listening to the radio show, is so enchanted that she leaves her fiancé and comes across the country looking for Sad Hanks. Will she find him? Will there be a happy ending? Will anyone call Child Protective Services about the boy, who looks about 8, somehow flying from Seattle to New York City without an adult and without anyone's permission?

Everything glistens, everyone's nice, the jokes are G-rated but sometimes funny, and it's all painted in very broad strokes.

Hanks and Ryan play characters with no discernible traits beyond prettiness, and no opinions about anything except, of course, that they need to fall in love. "You don’t want to be in love," says best buddy Rosie O'Donnell. "You want to be in love in a movie."

This is that movie.

Some of Sleepless was filmed here in Seattle, but it's entirely the Seattle of post cards — Sad Hanks lives in a houseboat on Lake Union, shops and eats at Pike Place Market, plays catch with his impossible son at Alki, etc.

It's all as deep as a post card, but I've seen worse on movie days with Clay & Karen. If you're itching for a highly-polished and inoffensive Hollywood mix of applesauce and vanilla, this is that movie.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

• Coming attractions •

District 9 (2009)

Toni Erdmann (2016)

White Lotus (second season, 2022)

Within Our Gates (1920) 

    ... plus occasional schlock and surprises

    • And then •

Asteroid City (2023)

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

China 9, Liberty 37 (1978) 

The Cook (1918)

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Doctor Who (second season, 2006)

Dr Cook's Garden (1971) 

The Eiger Sanction (1975)

From Beyond (1986)

Good Night, Nurse (1918)

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) 

Last Tango in Paris (1972) 

Manchester by the Sea (2018) 

Ménilmontant (1926)

The Scarecrow (1920)

The Six Million Dollar Man (1973)

Stalker (1979)  

Street Trash (1987)

Wisconsin Death Trip (1999) 

The YouTube Effect (2022) 


There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

 Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. "The film is 22 minutes long and he deserves more"

    There is a full-length Tippett doc from a couple years ago:


    It's excellent, though I kind of like the intense melancholy and subversive focus of the Vice doc better. But I'll take every snippett of Tippett I can get, one of my heroes, and despite his success someone who I think has had a genuine struggle, mentally if not otherwise, and it has benefited his work.

    Another of my film heroes is Rick Baker, who is similarly talented and thoughtful, but the things his parents did to accommodate his interests as a child just make my eyes water. They weren't rich, by any means, but they literally gave the boy entire rooms (living, bedrooms, etc.) of the house to use as studio space. He's always vocal about his gratitude for that, and I can't imagine any parents I ever knew - certainly not mine - who would, or could, do the same. It's like what Taylor Swift's parents did for her - fucking uproot the family and move to Nashville because your 10-year old wants a career? Sure, why not? Who the fuck does that? What fantasy world are these people living in? Of course, her dad was a vile stock broker, so fuck that whole family sideways with whatever tool is at hand.

    1. The Tippett flick is 'on order' now, thank you. Delivery expected in just ten more minutes.

      Rare indeed are the extremely successful artists who didn't have the immeasurable advantage of money or family or circumstance. It annoys me like it annoys you.

      I strongly believe there were many, many zine writers in our era — and artists, ahem — who were better at what they did than those who had the advantages and are now rich and famous and considered brilliant.

      I hadn't known that about Taylor Swift. Actually, there's an enormous database of what I don't know about Taylor Swift.

  2. "Delicatessen," what a fun movie...saw it maybe 7 years ago. My compliments to your fine illustrator. Wish I had one! I used to, but she passed away. Name was Sid Rohan, excellent human being, we worked well together...she illustrated my novel "Free Me From This Bond." One illustration per chapter, right at the beginning of each one.

    1. Sorry you lost your illustrator. I am weary of death, seeing far too much of it — my dad, my brother, my wife, my early-life best friend, my late-life best friend. Who's next?

      I'd delighted with the guy who did my illustrations, but I don't know whether he's looking for fresh commissions.


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