Cute couple, as French as can be. Hipster avant la lettre, man dies, woman grieves. The first thirty minutes of La Delicatesse are boring as hell. When I start getting annoyed by Audrey Tatou, Amélie Poulain herself, something is seriously wrong with a movie. The songs, the locations, the lighting: everything was smug and self conscious dribble.
But then an amiable Swede walks into the room. Markus (played by the Belgian actor François Damiens) works in France for Nathalie (Tatou), and is the one person that is able to break through the emotional shield she drew up after her husband’s death. And that is quite an achievement, because Nathalie is everything Markus is not: pretty, sophisticated, cultured. Markus is clumsy, wears vests, has a bald patch and takes his date to a crappy Chinese restaurant. He is very much aware of this and says things like: “this is like Liechtenstein dating America” about his relationship with Nathalie.
WARNING: THIS AMERICAN TRAILER OF THE FILM IS DREADFUL
Markus does not only save Nathalie; he saves this film. From the moment he stumbles into the frame the film becomes highly enjoyable. Everything else suddenly looks better. Nathalie’s creeepy boss, his inappropriately dressed secretary, Paris, the French countryside: they all benefit from Markus presence. I notice, as I did not do before, that it is absolutely unclear what kind of business the company Nathalie and Markus work for is in. There’s just endless walls with files, and meetings about files. And probably files about files.
The film does not stop being extremely French, but it does develop an immigrant’s point of view. Not a visitor to this country, who only takes in the highlights, but someone who gets to properly know the people and the culture, while still maintaining somewhat of an outsider’s perspective. Someone who is at home, and is accepted, but will never fully be one of them.
I saw La Delicatesse on July 14th, and I only picked it because the art house cinema was only showing French films that day and this one seemed to be less annoying than Intouchables and Tous Ensemble, but I actually enjoyed most of the film. Thanks to Markus, and François Damiens.