The Sewanee Cinema Guild present: Delicatessen, Camelot, and Christopher and his Kind

By Landon Manning, Robert Beeland, and Henry Thornton

Staff Writers and Junior Editor

The world of Caro and Jeunet’s Delicatessen is one that conveys a sense of otherness and the surreal. In a post apocalyptic French town, people who bemoan the loss of the Earth’s fertility consider planteating a mark of savagery, instead partaking in human flesh. An entire cannibalistic society seems to function like clockwork, with taxi services, comedians performing on the still functioning television, and a dedicated propaganda force describing the war on the vegetarian, sewer-hiding men called “Troglodytes.” And yet, the ones hoarding the actual vegetables are the irreverent glee at the prospect of suicide, feeding their own family members.

Right from the opening credits, these factors shift the audience’s perspective into realizing that this world is decidedly alien, not just in setting, but in internal logic. The film largely operates as a romantic black comedy, with a hapless clown-turned-handyman moving into an apartment building owned by a butcher who runs the titular delicatessen and fills the freezers with the flesh of his tenants. As a romance blossoms between the protagonist and the butcher’s daughter, he must find a way to win her over while simultaneously trying to save his own bacon. Not for the faint of heart, this 1991 French movie blends quiet emotion with slapstick and children to the elderly, and dietary practices that incorporate essential vitamins and minerals. Well-acted and beautifully shot, Delicatessen provides a strange experience that can be fun, regardless of nonsensical world-building and questionable character motivations.

On October 14, the Cinema Guild will be showing the 2011 film Christopher and his Kind. Following the life of Christopher Isherwood as he travels to Berlin in the early 1930s, Christopher and his Kind is a heartfelt tale of a man struggling to reconcile his homosexuality with a world that persecutes him. The film is told as Isherwood, played by Doctor Who’s Matt Smith, through a series of flashbacks as he writes his memoir. Isherwood travels to Berlin to where Christopher encounters a book burning in the meet men and embarks on a journey where he finds himself in the middle of the rise of Nazism in World War II Germany.

I found that director Geoffrey Sax, who also directed the 1996 film Doctor Who, immersed me in a world that, while far removed from my own, was compelling and profound nonetheless. One of the more memorable scenes—streets of Berlin—encapsulates the many themes of the film: the struggle for acceptance, alienation in a world of strife, and the zeitgeist of Nazism. The film evokes emotions that transcend both time and place, making it both endlessly relevant but also informative and historically interesting.

For Isherwood, Berlin represents both a bastion of freedom in identity, but also a type of restraint that brings him to make important decisions that affect his friends and himself. This strife is the driving force of the film, which cannot be put to words in the same thoughtfulness that the film conveys. Don’t miss out on the Cinema Guild’s showing of this beautiful drama. That’s the question you need to ask yourself if you’re wondering whether to see Camelot. Everything about this movie is just enormous, and maybe too much so. The movie lasts almost three hours. It cost fourteen million dollars in 1967 to make this movie, which would be one hundred million dollars today. It does a great job of capturing the grandiosity that can rarely be reproduced outside of a Broadway theater.

The sets and costumes are truly preposterously grand. They demand so much attention. There are numerous wonderfully extravagant musical numbers. The various historical details could be quibbled with but really shouldn’t be. King Arthur wasn’t real.

Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave are magnificent. As Arthur and Guinevere they do all they can to stay afloat in this massive, frothing, production. Redgrave in particular brings a special beauty and dignity to the tricky character of Guinevere. Director Joshua Logan smartly features several close ups of her face. His production staff can work hard but they can’t make anything that pretty.

The plot of the King Arthur story is relatively well known. Arthur becomes king and assembles his noble knights of the round table. There is a love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot. A dethronement plot comes and goes with another character. The inner workings of the spectacle never really hit home, but they always look good.

This is basically a Transformers movie from a different era. It features a huge budget and a traditionally gorgeous female lead. It’s adapted from a popular preexisting cultural property. If you like watching ornate spectacles, this may be for you, but there’s not much going on underneath.