Review: ‘The City of Lost Children’

A vibrant, bubbling cauldron of breathtaking f/x, gross-out humor and in-your-face imagery, Delicatessen duo Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's sophomore outing, The City of Lost Children, rollercoasters in as the ne plus ultra of grotesque adult fairy tales. This dark, Dickensian, $14 million-plus pinball machine of a movie hits all the major sensory bumpers but too rarely engages deeper emotions to score much of a bonus.

A vibrant, bubbling cauldron of breathtaking f/x, gross-out humor and in-your-face imagery, Delicatessen duo Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s sophomore outing, The City of Lost Children, rollercoasters in as the ne plus ultra of grotesque adult fairy tales. This dark, Dickensian, $14 million-plus pinball machine of a movie hits all the major sensory bumpers but too rarely engages deeper emotions to score much of a bonus.

Setting is a multilevel smokestack port littered with industrial detritus, rusty tankers and the biggest collection of weirdos and humans since Tod Browning’s Freaks. Local heavies are the Cyclops, a Nietzschean sect of one-eyed fanatics who abduct young kids for crazed, aging inventor Krank (Daniel Emilfork), who lives on a castle-like oil rig near a minefield.

The joyless Krank needs the children in order to steal their dreams. The Cyclops’ latest kidnap victim is Denree (Joseph Lucien), adopted baby brother of One (Ron Perlman), a former whale harpooner. One teams up with a group of orphan thieves and later bonds with the sassiest of the tykes, 9-year-old Miette (Judith Vittet).

For what is basically an exercise in sustained texture and cartoon-based imagery, Jeunet and Caro (the first again credited with ‘direction’ and the second with ‘artistic direction’) weave a strong enough storyline to sustain the weight of the huge cast of characters, who crisscross and bump into one another like balls on a pool table.

The City of Lost Children

France - Spain - Germany

Production

Lumiere/Canal Plus/France 3. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro; Producer Claudie Ossard; Screenplay Gilles Adrien, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro; Camera Darius Khondji; Editor Herve Schneid; Music Angelo Badalamenti;; Art Director Jean Rabasse

Crew

(Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1995. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Ron Perlman Daniel Emilfork Judith Vittet Dominique Pinon Jean-Claude Dreyfus Genevieve Brunet

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