After developing an addiction to the substance he uses to kill bugs, an exterminator accidentally kills his wife, and becomes involved in a secret government plot being orchestrated by giant bugs in a port town in North Africa.
Centered on a post-apocalyptic society where food is scrarce and used as currency. In an apartment building with a delicatessen on the ground floor. The owner of the eatery also owns the apartment building and is in need of a new maintenance man since the prior one "mysteriously" disappeared. A former clown applies for the job and the butcher's intent is to have him work for as little as possible, and then serve him to odd tenants who pay the butcher in grain. The clown and butcher's daughter fall in love and she tries to foil her father's plans by contacting the "troglodytes", a grain eating sub-group of society who live entirely underground.
In the opening credits, crew members' names appear on objects that the camera tracks across: the director of photography's name appears on a camera, the composer's name on a broken 12" record, etc. See more »
A sublime fusion of sickening grotesquerie and sentimental clowning.
Jeunet and Caro, with the help of their familiar repertory of actors, create a deeply disturbing and violent world where only a few shreds of conventional social mores remain. These scraps of morality only serve to delineate more clearly the overall decline and collapse of their dystopia. We see a butcher's shop; the proprietor, played by Jean-Claude Dreyfus, is evil almost to the point of caricature. He only manages to survive by killing his lodgers when they get behind with the rent and selling them as meat. However, the situation is given an added twist when we learn that all the lodgers are aware of this; a woman who is sold a joint of mother sheds a couple of stifled tears and mutters she would have liked to have said goodbye. Similarly, the butcher is most apologetic when he accidentally chops off the foot of one of his clients who has paid his rent in full.
Into this hellish world is placed someone with his moral values relatively intact. In this case, it is a circus performer played by the marvellously rubber-faced Dominique Pinon. A less engaging actor might have made this character seem two-dimensional, as he appears to have no faults whatsoever (except a set of over-mobile lips). He enthrals the lodgers' children with his games, is immensely chivalrous to the butcher's daughter and plays the musical saw. Finally, an old edition of his act is broadcast on the flickering black-and-white television, and even the most bloodthirsty lodgers are amazed and delighted. The butcher's jealousy is roused; Good and Innocence is forced to fight Evil and Hatred.
As such, the plot is relatively straightforward. It is the sheer surrealistic imagination that Jeunet and Caro bring to their films that prevent them being unremittingly bleak or simple morality tales. They display a brilliant sense of musical timing- the whole building frequently becomes an orchestra of creaking bed-springs, croaking frogs, and crackling radios; above all this soars a love-duet of a cello and a musical saw. The faded `look' of the film complements this. With the exception of a single television remote control, nothing here would be out of place in in a exhibition of 40s and 50s design. In `The City of Lost Children' the exuberance of the design threatens to swamp the slender storyline on occasions; here, the more `grown-up' themes and less fantastic design go hand in hand.
(A word of warning about the video release- the subtitles appear to have been written be a couple of Frenchmen who really ought to have concentrated harder in their English classes at school. Apart from that, I wholeheartedly recommend this joyously grotesque film.)
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