THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN
(Le Cité des Enfants Perdus)
The whole of the budget certainly shows up on screen. The City of Lost Children is surely the most gorgeously designed film you will see in some time. Caro and Jeunet delight in the creation of almost-familiar worlds. Where Delicatessen seemed caught somewhere between post-War and post-holocaust, The City of Lost Children suggests a Victorian fantasy world. It is as though one of the period Jules Verne films of the 1950s such as Disneys 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) with its Victorian polished brass, metal boilerplates and wrought iron curlicues has been dirtied down and turned into a Dickensian urchin fantasy. Everything in the film gives the impression of having been crafted by hand. The City of Lost Children is also one of its years most beautifully photographed films all the work of Darius Khondji, the man who should have won the cinematography Oscar the same year for his stunning work on Se7en (1995).
The film has a wilful bizarreness. The characters include a mad scientist with a penchant for dressing up as Santa Claus who kidnaps children because he has lost the ability to dream; six bumbling clones, the original of whom has lost his memory and lives as a deep-sea diver who never surfaces; a pair of evil Siamese twins who run an orphanage, using their charges in a petty theft ring; an opium-addicted circus owner with a flea that is trained to conduct commando raids and inject mind control drugs into peoples brains; a religious cult whose members have blinded themselves and replaced their eyes with cyclopean video cameras. It is too much to expect that any of this should make sense The City of Lost Children is one of those films that delights in the stew of bizarre elements for their own sake. What one would have liked though is a plot.
The exercise tends to vanish into its own murkiness at times. It gives the impression that Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet have become swamped by the size of the film, that the exquisiteness of the decor has cramped the natural freeness of their style. The design seems to occlude everything and missing somewhere in the proceedings is any of the sparkling insouciant delight of Delicatessen. There is a standout scene where a single tear causes a progressive chain of accidents culminating in a ship crashing into a pier. However, The City of Lost Children also lacks the goofy delights that Delicatessen had. There is nothing here like the orchestra of sound effects, the hilarity of Sylvie Lagunas repeatedly failed suicide attempts, or the scene where short-sighted Marie-Laure Dougnac invites Dominique Pinon for morning tea. The City of Lost Children is in the end a disappointment but certainly few films disappoint as beautifully as The City of Lost Children does.
Subsequent to The City of Lost Children, Jean-Pierre Jeunet came to America to direct Alien: Resurrection (1997) and then returned to France to direct the international arthouse hit Amelie/Amelie of Montmartre (2001), followed by the Wartime film A Very Long Engagement (2004), the slapstick caper film Micmacs (2009) about a wounded man taking revenge on weapons manufacturers, and The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013) about a bright boys journey across a hyper-real US. Marc Caro did not return to the directors chair up until the science-fiction film Dante 01 (2008).
(Winner for Best Production Design, Nominee for Best Cinematography at this sites Best of 1995 Awards).
English-dubbed trailer here:-