Saturday, September 11, 2010

The City of Lost Children

'The City of Lost Children' (1995) is a highly imaginative blend of fantasy, science-fiction and fairy-story by the French film-makers Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. Set in a dystopian world of steel-grey docklands and a phosphorescent green sea, the action involves a semi-robotic gang of one-eyed henchmen called Cyclops who kidnap children for the evil Doctor Krank (Daniel Emilfork) to 'feed' upon their dreams. The crazy doctor Krank is the resident of a sea-rig laboratory along with Uncle Irvin, a disembodied brain who floats in an aquarium and six identical cloned brothers, amazingly filmed and acted by Dominique Pinon.

When Krank's hench-men the Cyclops, kidnap the young brother of circus strong-man One (Ron Perlman), he unites with Miette (Judith Vittet), the ring-leader of a gang of children who are the enforced subjects of sadistic and conjoined school-mistresses, to rescue him. The blossoming romance between the adult strong-man One and the nine-year old orphan heroine Miette is particularly touching, challenging and transcending taboo notions of relationships between child and adult.

Together Jeunet and Caro conjure up an imaginative and claustrophobic landscape in which sets, special effects, photography, fast narrative pace and performances equally contribute to a brilliant film. It's a self-contained world in which lugubrious fog-horns, low-tech mechanisms and humorous sequences of cause and effect occur. Among the many inventive special effects throughout the film the sight of a Titanic-sized ocean-liner crashing through dock-lands, is particularly stunning.

Not unlike Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil' (1985) and their earlier collaboration, also set in a dystopia, 'Delicatessen' (1990) Jenet and Caro's artistic agenda is in essence a discourse upon the world of appearances and the loss of soul in the modern world. As the credits roll the sound-track features the distinctive voice of Marianne Faithfull singing, 'Who will take your dreams away?'

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