The City Of Lost Children (La Cité Des Enfants Perdus)

Dir: Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1995. Staring: R. Perlman, D. Emilfork, J. Vittet, D. Pinon. Foreign/French Fantasy.
The City Of Lost Children (La Cité Des Enfants Perdus)

ONCE UPON A VERY STRANGE TIME… Dark, damp, and dreary, tucked away in a twisted dream somewhere between Oliver Twist and The Brothers Grimm is The City Of Lost Children. A ginger-headed sideshow strong man of Russian origin named "One" (Ron Perlman) has had a very bad day indeed. His sideshow barker has been knifed during their last chain busting performance and later that evening his adopted little brother, Denree, is abducted by a band of Jean-Paul Gaultier clad "Cyclopes" and taken away to an oil rig-looking platform of a mad scientist’s lair! Not only is the scientist mad, but he’s quite frail and cranky and even named Krank (Daniel Emilfork).

NOTE: Krank is something akin to Robert Helpmann’s Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but with a shaved head.

TALES OF THE CITY This is a dingy, mildewy cityscape with veins of green-lit sea working its way through it. And in this brick-laden burg is a thieves' den of orphan pick-pockets lead by the multi-limbed Siamese twins, the "Octopus!" Basically, in this world you’re either a kidnapped kid or a street-smart thief. During a bungled burglary the orphan sneak thieves have a run-in with One. There he meets a headstrong Little Red Riding Hood of sorts named Miette (Judith Vittet). Through family-less camaraderie they team together to search out Denree and the rest of the missing children. Speaking of…Why have the children been snatched up? Where exactly have they been taken?

FAMILIAR FRENCH FACES Many directors have their usual suspects they like to work with and Jeunet is among them. Lost Children is littered with players from other projects he’s corralled. The denizens of this night world are a wonderful rogue’s gallery of character actors.

You’ll notice the fantastic talents of the rubber-faced Dominique Pinon from Delicatessen, Alien: Resurrection, Amelie, A Very Long Engagement, and the upcoming MICMACS. Here Pinon plays not one character but an entire set of 6 clones and the original from which they were copied. Talk about being "beside yourself!"

Also known to the Jeunet landscape is Jean-Claude Dreyfus (Delicatessen, A Very Long Engagement) as Marcello, a now defunct sideshow proprietor who’s "blazing" away his past. There is Ticky Holgado (Delicatessen, Amelie, A Very Long Engagement) who makes a quick cameo as One’s friend and sideshow Barker. And Rufus (Delicatessen, Amelie, A Very Long Engagement) as the "Octopus’" henchman.

NOTE: I have no idea why he is only known as "Rufus." Maybe he is making a nod to Cher?

ANOTHER NOTE: Also, Pinon and Rufus have both worked with Roman Polanski. Rufus appears in The Tenant and Pinon in Frantic.

SIGHTSEEING The visual effects department was wrangled by Pitof. He has unfolded other worlds with Jeunet and Caro before (Delicatessen, Alien: Resurrection). Clearly they all speak the same language when it comes to the visual…SPECTACULAR!

CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN (OR THE WORLD FOR THAT MATTER) Jean-Paul Gaultier’s costume contribution to Lost Children is most impressive. The clothing is something between old timey and science fiction super hero. One has this amazing knit sweater that he wears throughout the film. The child thieves look almost as if their clothes were inspired by a new take on Little Rascals. The Scientist and the Clones wear green rubber-looking scrubs/overalls. And then of course there are the Cyclopes' in their stylized rain coats!

NOTE: Gaultier’s film wear can also be impressively seen in Kika, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, and The Fifth Element.

MUSIC TO SINK YOUR SOUL INTO With all the visual voodoo going on you need a sick lullaby to send you softly back to sleep. Leave it to Angelo Badalamenti to put the finishing touches on this dark wonderland. The score works so well with the world. If the film were a hand then the score is a velvet glove for that hand. It just fits so well. Badalamenti also scored A Very Long Engagement.

UNDERWORLD The time of The City Of Lost Children is undetermined. The clothing and the world are a mix of many things making a very unique entrée with familiar side dishes. It seems to be both small and large as if a piece of some crumbling gotham broke off and went drifting into the great glowing green sea, a grimy glacier filled with eclectically clad Eskimos. All done up in an oil slick style.

NOTE: The DVD special features include a feature length commentary with Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Ron Perlman. This is both insightful and entertaining. I find the no nonsense of Perlman’s voice to be quite enjoyable as he recants this fairy tale.

Posted by:
Joey Jenkins
May 14, 2010 4:58pm
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