Studies in Literature, Film and New Media
Edited By Anna Kędra-Kardela and Andrzej Sławomir Kowalczyk
CHAPTER TEN: In the Bowels of a Gothic Microverse: Delicatessen as a Semiotic Palimpsest
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In the Bowels of a Gothic Microverse: Delicatessen as a Semiotic Palimpsest
Gothic texts may at times seem like collages of various literary and filmic traditions, making the genre a playing field of conventions, and therefore a space where signs belonging to different semiotic families assemble, interact, and produce new meanings. The inherent possibility to subcategorise anything Gothic into a number of smaller contributing components of styles and semiotic units is well reflecting of the “boundlessness as well as over-ornamentation,” which Botting refers to as a prime feature of the genre (1996: 3).
A 1991 debut film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro Delicatessen is a tribute to the achievements of Terry Gilliam and visually masterful testimony to the creative talents of the two French filmmakers. Described as “everything from a post-Holocaust film [. . .] to a gore comedy” (“Delicatessen”), Delicatessen can be seen as a product of the rich dialectical processes which take place on the welcoming, eclectic soil of this genre. In a relatively short film, we witness a generic transformation of the little filmic universe, a process semiotically as much as “aesthetically excessive” (Botting 1996: 6).
Delicatessen is set somewhere in post-apocalyptic France where plants have long ceased to grow and food shortages push people to acts of cannibalism. The filmmakers chose to concentrate their vision exclusively on life in a half-ruined tenement house inhabited by the three-generation Tapioca family, brothers Robert...
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