Masterpiece Cinema Classic - The City of Lost Children
'The City of Lost Children' (or 'La Cité des Enfants Perdus', to use its French title) Starring Ron Perlman, Judith Vittet, Daniel Emilfork and Dominique Pinon.
Written by Gilles Adrien, Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Directed by Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Creepy Surrealist French film
Running time: 112 minutes.
Rated: R (American rating for disturbing and grotesque images of violence and menace. Sounds like we're living in 1950 with a rating like that, doesn't it?).
IMDb link: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0112682/
Whenever I see the ad for Amélie, I'm always curious why the voiceover mentions that it's from the director of Delicatessen, but never mentions that it's also from the same director of The City of Lost Children (the reason they don't mention that it's also from the director of Alien: Resurrection is obvious).
The guy in question is Jean-Pierre Jeunet, an amazing director with an incredibly recognizable visual style. The City of Lost Children is the 1995 movie he made with filmmaking partner Marc Caro, with whom he also directed Delicatessen and The Bunker of the Last Gunshots.
If you've seen Amélie (or A Very Long Engagement), you have a fairly good idea of Jeunet's and Caro's visual style. But you probably don't know how dark their shared vision can be. Ever eat some bad salami and have a particularly vivid nightmare? That's what The City of Lost Children is like. It is that very vivid nightmare, while also remaining incredibly beautiful and touching.
Ron Perlman stars as One, a monosyllabic sailor whose kid brother is stolen away. In fact, children all over the city are being taken, and nobody has a clue as to why. One, hoping to get his brother back, teams up with Miette, a brilliant street urchin who wants to find out where all the kids are going.
What's that? You think it sounds saccharine? Like Homeward Bound or some crap? You couldn't be further from the truth. It's a Brothers Grimm fairytale at its best - it's creepy, threatening and unsettling. Believe me, there's nothing sugary about this movie.
The sets and costumes are so meticulously crafted that you're transported to an entirely different world. In fact, the special effects are so amazing overall that they beat out a number of films Hollywood had touted as being 'cutting edge' and 'state of the art'.
The actors are fantastic. The world they inhabit is lush and beautifully frightening. The story is complex, yet still fairytale simple. It's a sumptuous movie that leaves you stunned that such a thing could exist and that you might have gone your entire life without having seen it.
I love Amélie. That saucy French vixen won my heart and charmed me endlessly. If Audrey Tautou showed up and proposed to me, well … it'd never happen, but I can dream, right?
I love The City of Lost Children just as much, and on some days, even more. It's a surrealist film that doesn't sacrifice its humanity or force gore in your face in order to creep you out. It's a dark ghost story; it's a technicolour campfire tale; and it's terrific.
Next week: We'll see!