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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Oct 28: The City of Lost Children


Oct 28: The City of Lost Children

"A scientist in a surrealist society kidnaps children to steal their dreams, hoping that they slow his aging process."
Directed by: Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Rated: PG-13, 112 minutes

The City of Lost Children is a dark fairy tale from the mind of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the man behind Amelie and Delicatessen. Starring Ron Perlman, Lost Children tells the story of a brute named One and his journey through a dystopian junk-filled city in search of his little brother. On the streets of the city, One encounters a bunch of orphans, all working under the evil Octopus, a Siamese-twin duo that send the urchins out to find all sorts of treasures. However, it's not as simple as pick-pocketing or taking something when someone's not looking and many of the children are kidnapped by Krank (Daniel Emilfork), a scientist who steals their dreams in order to feel emotion. One of the orphan girls, Miette (Judith Vittet) teams up with One and together they agree to help save the kids that were kidnapped and stop the scientist.

Daniel Emilfork plays Krank as both a desperate and tyrannical individual... and it's all sorts of fun. 

The City of Lost Children is a very creative film. Set in a world that looks well past it's prime, a beauty can be found in the effects and sets. Jean-Pierre Jeunet and co-director Marc Caro have an incredible imagination and take a rather "cheap" looking movie to great heights. With practical effects and all sorts of gadgets, the city and its characters come to life in a twisted yet charming way. Ron Perlman is a massive man in his own right by the duo-directors use all sorts of angles and tricks to accentuate his stature and make him appear to be a giant ape of a man in a crowd of children. The Octopus is played by two different actresses but their limbs weave in and out giving the illusion that the person is actually one being with four arms and three legs. The scientist's lab is full of all sorts of gadgets and machines, and the quasi-steampunk style brings each object to life. As for the visual effects, Krank also has clones that work for him (played wonderfully by Dominque Pinon) and their bumbling and bumping into each other look flawless. As opposed to the usual effect you get when you have one man playing multiple roles, these clones appear to be played by six different individuals. Towards the end of the movie there is a quick aging process that happens in a dream and how well it is done leaves you baffled. It looks flawless and you're wondering how it was done. 

More Pinon is a great, great thing. 

As for the story, the first thirty minutes or so feel like forever as the buildup to the heart of it all is rather tedious. Many subplots and characters are involved and you are left a little confused as to where it is all going. However, once the story finds its focus and you realize that it's more about One and Miette's relationship. A giant man who speaks very little and a girl that's more adventurous than anything else prove to be a great combination and as the two grow closer, your heart gets all fuzzy. They share a handful of scenes that focus on their connection and as it grows deeper, you fear they will be torn apart, or something worse. Recognition must be given to the two actors, as without Perlman or Vittet, The City of Lost Children would be much more forgetable. Perlman went into production knowing absolutely no French and yet his lines (although few) are delivered perfectly. As he's limited to what he can express with words, so much of what he says is with his eyes and facial expressions. The film reminds us that Perlman is indeed an exceptional actor and is much more than a brute with a smile. The young Vittet is adorable as Miette and her ability to connect with Perlman is heart-warming. She's much braver than her age allows and proves to be the perfect accomplice to such a large, quiet man.


The City of Lost Children is worth every bit of your time. Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro continue their relationship that started with Delicatessen and create a worthy successor. If you are familiar with either of the men's work, you'll find much more to appreciate in the film and if you're a newcomer to either of them, you'll discover a magical imagination that spills out across multiple movies. The City of Lost Children proves that with a bit of creativity, a decent budget, and great direction, you can go to all sorts of places that you never thought possible. The film is something that can be watched multiple times with new discoveries found each viewing. There's plenty to love and plenty to enjoy and I would highly recommend it. 

The Good:
seeing what two talented men can do with a stretched budget and witnessing the power of great imaginations
The Better:
a film that never feels as cheap as you first assume, with terrific special effects that only heighten the magic
The Best:
a duo of core performances that give the movie a hell of a lot of heart and so much to root for

Discussion Question:
Should filmmakers continue to reuse the same style and techniques throughout their filmographies or is it better when someone experiments and branches out away from the familiar?


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