Title: The City of Lost Children
Release Date: May 17, 1995
Director: Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Production Company: Canal+ | Centre National de la Cinématographie | Eurimages | France 3 Cinéma | Televisión Española
The Brattle Theatre podcast stated that The City of Lost Children is a Christmas movie, so I’m going to run with it since I’ve been meaning to rewatch this classic for some time. The makers of another classic, Delicatessen, created this visually-stunning, creepy yet heartfelt story about chosen family and hope in dire times. The setting is a gritty port city (kind of a dystopian version of Sweet Haven from Robert Altman’s Popeye) populated by sideshow performers, a criminal gang of orphans run by malicious conjoined twins, and a religious cult of Cyclops who kidnap children.
Many of these children are delivered to an evil scientist Krank (Daniel Emilfork) on an oil rog who is stealing their dreams because he can’t dream himself. Working with Krank are a half-dozen clones (all played by Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon), a dwarf named Marth (Mireille Mossé), and a brain in a fish tank named Uncle Irvin (Jean-Louis Trintignant). This all really begins to make sense over time as details are revealed. In retrospect, I wonder how much this movie influenced the tv adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Into this milieu enters the strongman One (a brilliant performance by Ron Perlman) whose world is turned upside down after his carnival manager is stabbed and his little brother, Denree (Joseph Lucien), is abducted. He aligns with a member of the orphan gang, Miette (Judith Vittet), to track down his little brother. The bond formed between One and Miette is what makes this film great, and I’m very impressed by the 10-year-old Vittet’s acting chops. I looked at her IMBD page expecting her to be in lots of great movies as an adult, but alas her acting career was very short (although she does work in costuming for French tv series).
This movie is absolutely brilliant but it has to be seen to be believed. Oh, and the Krank dream sequences contain imagery of many creepy Santa Clauses, so there is your Christmas content. The themes of hope and family, though, make it even more relevant to the holiday.