The City of the Lost Children
Dir: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro
Star: Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, Judith Vittet, Dominique Pinon
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 1995
Format: DVD R1

One (Ron Perlman) is a circus strongman who looks after the young orphan Denree who he calls his little brother. That is until he is kidnapped by the Cyclops and sold to Krank (Daniel Emilfork) who is a evil madman that steals the dreams of small children. One teams up with the plucky young thief Miette (Judith Vittet) who is on the run from Fagan like minder a Siamese twin called the Octopus. They set off to rescue little brother who is being held by Krank in this oil rig home. A home he shares with Mademoiselle Bismuth (a dwarf), Six clones (all Dominique Pinon), and Uncle Irwin a disembodied brain in a tank. One and Miette must escape the Octopus and her killer fleas, cross the mine field, and defeat Krank all to rescue little brother.

No I haven't gone insane that really is the plot summary. As you can see this is a rather strange film. It is a sort of gothic fairy tale, and it is very European. Maybe I haven't done it justice, you see when you watch the film these strange elements they sort of fall into place and the whole thing really does make sense (you'll just have to trust me on this one). The closest I can come to a similar film is Dark City. Both share wonderfully bizarre locations and characters, but where as the tone of Dark City was well dark, this movie is more of a children's story (all be it a darker one).

The most impressive things about the film are the fantastic sets and direction. Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro use a rich colour palette full of oranges and greens to startling effect. This coupled with some of the most impressive sets I've ever seen give the city a truly unique feel. The sets are intricate and on a large scale using huge rusting iron structures and strange mix of architectural styles the city looks like Port Meirion on acid. This acts as a wonderful backdrop to the moving story. Getting the most of the sets is the directors job and thankfully they have been completely successful. Each shot is fully of detail and the colour contrasts used make for fascinating viewing. This is a film you can watch many times and never get bored of the beautiful scenery on show.

This would mean nothing if the story was dull, and as luck would have it, it isn't. The first half of the story introduces us to the characters and provides us with the background to their complex lives, and the second half is where the action is. Each of the many characters are well fleshed out and most have a genuinely tragic tale to tell, although due to the copious amount of comedy things aren't depressing. Where the film excels is the provision of some really evil bad guys each of which is scary in a grotesque way. Only occasionally does the pace falter and we are left with nothing but the visuals to occupy us. this is one of the films few faults.

Another major plus point is the quality of acting talent on display. Ron Perlman is outstanding as the simple strongman One. But the real star of the film is Judith Vittet who at nine delivers a performance with is nothing short of superb. Her Miette is tough, vulnerable and very grown up and this adds a strange element to her interaction with One. You see it is almost as if she is the love interest, I know how dodgy this sounds but I really think the intentions were quite innocent (it's a bit like Leon it appears that this is more acceptable in Europe). Apart from this we have sterling work from Daniel Emilfork and Dominique Pinon the later in seven different roles. There really isn't a weak performance in the whole cast.

OK so this sort of film will be a bit too strange for some people and may not have a universal appeal, but it is a wonderful story with an amazing atmosphere. The sets and effects are outstanding and the camerawork and direction is excellent. Add to this some very strong performances (and a very talented and universally good child actors) and you really have something well worth a watch. If you enjoyed Dark City you'll love this. A true gothic fairy tale.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Good but a little on the light side
Audio French surround or English dub surround Choice of soundtracks or subtitles, pretty good surround mix either way.
Features Commentary track from Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Ron Perlman
Production Notes
Costume Designs
Cast Biographies
Verdict Picture could have been better but overall a good disc. Extras are mainly text based but not bad. More details about the special effects would have been welcome.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Link Back Top Home