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To dream of a diabolical Santa.

  • Sep 16, 2012
**** out of ****

The critics need to back off on this one. Real filmmakers do not make their art to please those who went to school so that they could write about movies and say what they must (or must not, since nobody is forcing them but their employers). Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's second feature, "The City of Lost Children", is a futuristic steampunk fantasy of wild imagination and ambition that crams so many ideas into one movie that it's understandable how it might upset a lot of critics and movie-goers alike looking for something a little more, I don't know, mainstream. But I think those who criticize it are forgetting one of its main inspirations: fairy tales. In itself, the film is one. It succumbs to the whimsical logic of such stories and doesn't fully develop every idea that the filmmakers had in mind; and banks on the fact that they had them alone.

This too will upset some people, but it doesn't bother me. I came to accept the fact that these ideas weren't going to be explored in extreme detail early on in the picture. The directing duo's first film, "Delicatessen", also had a lot of ideas that went nearly untouched; but all the same, I thought it was humorous and visionary. The follow-up film is no different. It is so unpredictable in its charm and its intrigue that I was able to throw away all preconceptions and common criticisms. If it exists in the realm of a fairy tale fantasy, doesn't it have the right to be somewhat simplistic and more based around its own obscure beauty?

The story, as it is, involves the mad scientist Dr. Krank (Daniel Emilfork) as he is trying to steal the dreams from children that he sends his one-eyed servants, partial to a cult within his base, to collect off the streets of a neighboring sea-side village not far from his metallic rig in the middle of a green ocean. Krank has never been able to recall a dream and is therefore convinced that he's straight-up just never had one to begin with; always being taunted by a talking brain that floats in a fish tank and being underwhelmed by his colleagues, the mousy big-headed and small-bodied woman Martha, and his cloned minions (all played by Dominique Pinon).

The doctor's plans are threatened when his Cyclops servants kidnap the younger brother (although not in blood) of the tall and thick-muscled circus performer named One (Ron Perlman). He teams up with a local girl in the village who goes by the name of Miette (Judith Vittet) to rescue his brother from the clutches of this vile man and perhaps uncover a plot to destroy his rig. Meanwhile, conjoined twins known as The Octopus - who work as a unit for collecting the things that the young thieves within the village salvage - hire some kids to steal a safe (although this is early on in the film), which makes way for a sub-plot which concerns them hiring a fellow circus performer (Jean Claude Dreyfus) who has a little flee that can inject a mind-controlling substance into any human being that it is ordered to strike.

The film takes place in some sort of futuristic landscape, and the creation of this world is simple yet almost labyrinth-like. There's obviously a lot of green screen employed here but not to the point where it's overly noticeable or annoying; in fact, Caro and Jeunet show it in just the right surplus so that it's almost charming in an antique-like sort of way. But the complexity in the art design and cinematography for this movie is especially off-the-charts. I liked the nifty little device that the doctor and his patients (er...victims) hook up to when he's attempting to snatch their dreams (which are often about scary Christmases gone wrong and evil Santa Clauses).

Above all, it's the camera that catches everything; well, topped with the trippy visual effects and editing job that the boys used to the fullest effect. "The City of Lost Children" contains literally a delightfully demented visual surprise a minute, and it's for the most part rather unpredictable in what it gives us. It is funny, odd, and all the while undeniably intoxicating. The French have a peculiar way in which they make films, and this one does all the more to embody what's so good about their side of cinema. This is a cinematic experience worth the price of admission if only because there are few other films like it. Of course, those done by Jeunet are similar in style; but yep, that's about it. I admire a filmmaker with his/her own style as long as I'm down with it, and I have been with Jeunet's for a long time now. "The City of Lost Children" deserves the full four scared-to-death children out of four.

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September 25, 2012
"Delicatessen" was odd...but it sure had its charms. Ron Perlman is the man.
More The City of Lost Children reviews
review by . May 28, 2009
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, Alien Resurrection & Amelie) and his 1992 directing sidekick from Delicatessen, Marc Caro brings the dark, dank, rat-infested "City Of Lost Children" to life! All with the likes of one side-show travelling troupe strong-man, Mr. One played excellently by Beauty & The Beast's Ron Perlman, evil, pilfering, child corruptors and Fagin-like Siamese sisters joined by a third leg affectionately referred to as "The Octopus", and a manmade man who lacks …
review by . November 11, 2008
The City Of Lost Children
Krank is an evil, created being who uses the Cyclops to kidnap children for him so that he can steal their dreams. Intrigued yet? One is the strongman at a street sideshow, who has adopted a street urchin as his younger brother, Denree. One is not much more than an adult child himself, having a simple brain, and when Denree is taken by the Cyclops, One must find him.     One finds himself tangled up with a band of street kids, thieves and pickpockets, who are enslaved by Siamese …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Starring Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, Judith Vittet, Dominique Pinon
Directed by Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Writer:  Gilles Adrian, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Product Description
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Ent Release Date: 06/24/2008 Run time: 112 minutes Rating: R

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Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama, Fantasy
Release Date: December 15, 1995
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 1hr 52min
Studio: Club d'Investissement M├ędia , Sony Pictures Classics
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