Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The City of Lost Children

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro and written by Jeunet,Caro, and Gilles Adrien, La Cite des enfants perdus (The City of Lost Children) is a fantasy-drama film set in a dystopian world where a carnival strongman and a streetwise orphan going to an island to save children from a mad scientist. Featuring Jeunet’s whimsical yet colorful direction along with Caro’s broad visual ideas, it is considered the duo’s finest collaboration of their career. Starring Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, Judith Vittet, Dominique Pinon, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Rufus, Ticky Holgado, Mathieu Kassovitz, and the voice of Jean-Louis Trintignant. La Cite des enfants perdus is a remarkable yet stunning film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro.

Somewhere on a mysterious island in the middle of the sea, a mad scientist named Krank (Daniel Emilfork) is kidnapping children so he can steal their dreams. Krank, unable to dream, is getting nightmares from the children he kidnaps with the help of his midget-wife Martha (Mirielle Mosse) and a group of cloned men (Dominique Pinon). Yet, all the children are scared of Krank as he hopes to reverse the aging process while is being annoyed by a brain named Irvin (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who the clones admire. Krank continues to look for a child that would give him good dreams so he can stop himself from aging. Meanwhile at a nearby dystopian world, a simple-minded strongman named One (Ron Perlman) is taking care of a young infant child named Denree (Joseph Lucien) who is later kidnapped by a group of men known as Cyclops.

During his search for Denree, One meets a young girl named Miette who helps him as she’s part of a group of orphan thieves who steal for Siamese-twin women known as Octopus (Genevieve Brunet and Odile Mallet) who are connected by one foot. After encountering their guard Peeler (Rufus), One and Miette go on a journey to find Cyclops and its leader Gabriel Marie (Serge Merlin). There, they see a ceremony where Martha and one of the clones get the kidnapped children including Denree where One and Miette are caught. Octopus sends a former circus performer named Marcell (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) to retrieve One for their own reasons where Marcello uses a flea to attack one of the Cyclops to save One while Miette nearly drowns only to be saved by a man in a diving bell suit revealed to be Krank’s former scientist (Dominique Pinon).

When a fuse full of nightmares comes across the ex-scientist, he realizes what is going on while Miette finds One as she also sees one of the nightmares. Realizing where Denree is, they encounter some trouble while finding a man (Ham-Chau Luong) with a tattoo on his head leading to the island. It’s up to a strongman, a young girl, and an ex-scientist to save the kids before its too late.

The film is a fantasy story about a simple-minded yet loving strongman and a young girl try to save a young infant boy from an evil scientist who is trying to steal dreams from children in hopes to reverse the aging process for himself. Yet, it is set in a world where things are hopeless as young infant children are often kidnapped while orphans had to fend for themselves. For this young girl where she meets this childlike strongman, she finds someone who can protect her while this strongman finds someone who can help him. Yet, they face a mad scientist who has become obsessed with becoming young only to lose sight of reality as he becomes dependent on finding infants who aren’t scared of him so he can live in their dreams.

The screenplay that Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro, and Gilles Adrien create explores a world that is definitely lost where there are even more crazier things in this mysterious island that is protected by mines and such. Notably as the mainland features an underground army of blind men who can only see through an electronic eye as they’re working for this scientist to kidnap children. When they encounter this strong man and a very determined young girl, all things become troubling for the scientist. Yet, One and Miette also have to deal with the Siamese-twin ladies known as Octopus who are upset over the fact that Miette has become trouble and is turning over a new leaf away from stealing.

While the story is a dystopian-fantasy film, it’s also got a lot of humor as there’s a small subplot about a group of clones trying to figure out who is the original clone. Even in some scenes where there’s a lot of strange scenarios into how One and Miette try to get out of a bad situation that does involve a lot of comedy. Even the character of Krank is comical since he is so delusional about what he wants as he is also annoyed by this talking brain named Irvin who is the film’s conscience.

The direction of Caro and Jeunet is definitely big in terms of its presentation where it is set in a world that is off-kilter and full of things where not everything works. Notably as the mainland is cramped and there’s children running around while there’s a lot of strange things happening where young children have to hide from the Cyclops. The direction is filled with stylish shots from these wide crane shots, dizzying fish-eye lenses, close-ups, and all sorts of things to maintain that sense of whimsy that Caro and Jeunet wants. Even in the way they present funny moments as well as surreal moments where reality and fiction collide such as the climatic scene at the island when One and Miette finally face Krank.

The direction also contains element of darkness in the way dystopia is presented though it’s not overtly bleak. Notably as it features some spectacular action sequences that involves not just some quirky visual effects but also suspense such as face-off between Octopus against Miette and One. There’s also some very strange scenes such as the way an accident is presented where it is this strange mix of humor and action that plays to that world of the whimsical. It’s all part of a world that is very weird that has some element of reality but it is mostly a fantasy. Overall, Jeunet and Caro create a fantastic and adventurous film that plays well to the fantasy genre.

Cinematographer Darius Khondji does brilliant work with the film‘s very stylish photography with its sepia-drenched lighting schemes for many of the film‘s interior and exterior settings in the mainland as well as scenes underwater and some more low-key colors in the island scenes. Editor Herve Schneid does amazing work with the editing by utilizing lots of stylish cuts for some of the film‘s action scenes along with dazzling cuts for some of the dream montages. Production designers Marc Caro and Jean Rabasse do spectacular work with the set pieces created from the look of the mainland with its buildings to the more quirky video cameras at Krank’s island.

Costume designer Jean-Paul Gaultier does excellent work with the costumes as they‘re quite over-the-top in the look of the Cyclops as well as the more colorful clothes most of the characters wear. The visual effects by Pitof and Pierre Buffin are terrific for the way some of the backdrops look as well as the close-ups of Marcello‘s flea that would fly to inject something into a person. Sound designer Jean-Pierre Halbwachs does superb work with the sound to create some unique sound effects in the scenes set in the island as well as other layers of mixing to play up the sense of whimsy that occurs in the film. The film’s music by Angelo Badalamenti is wonderful for its sense of orchestral bombast as well as playfulness in some of the comical moments as it’s one of Badalamenti’s best scores.

The casting by Pierre-Jacques Benichou is incredible for the ensemble that features some notable appearances from Mathieu Kassovitz as a man in the streets, Ticky Holgado as One’s master, Rufus as Octopus’ henchman, Marc Caro as a man becoming a Cyclops, Serge Merlin as the Cyclops leader, and Joseph Lucien as One’s baby brother Denree who is always eating something. Genevieve Brunet and Odile Mallet are great as the conniving Siamese-twin sisters Octopus who are determined to get rid of Miette for rebelling against them. Jean-Louis Trintignant is very funny as the voice of the brain Irvin whom the clones adore and Krank is annoyed by while Jean-Claude Dreyfus is excellent as the former circus performer Marcello who finds himself sympathizing with One and Miette over their situation.

Mirelle Mosse is wonderful as Krank’s diminutive wife Martha who helps Krank out while dealing all of the chaos in the island while Dominique Pinon is amazing as the clones and the mysterious man in the diving bell suit where he brings a lot of humor as the clones while being more quirky as the diver. Daniel Emilfork is terrific as the villainous Krank as he’s a man full of delusions and anger as he is unsure if his experiments will work. Judith Vittet is brilliant as Miette as she’s a determined child who knows how to do things while aiding One in his mission as she realized how important it is. Finally, there’s Ron Perlman in a remarkable performance as the simple-minded strongman One where Perlman gets to show restraint in his role as a man trying to find his baby brother while Perlman doesn’t get to have a lot of dialogue though he does speak French quite adequately. Notably as he makes up for it with his physical presence and ability to be funny and sensitive in his role.

La Cite des enfants perdus is a marvelous film from the duo of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. The film is definitely among one of Jeunet’s great films as it features amazing performances from Ron Perlman, Judith Vittet, Daniel Emilfork, and Dominique Pinon. It’s a film that is among one of the most imaginative and entertaining fantasy films that plays to the world of reality and fiction that is expected in the genre. In the end, La Cite des enfants perdus is a spectacular film from Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet Films: Delicatessen - Alien: Resurrection - Amelie - A Very Long Engagment - Micmacs - (The Young and Prodigious Spivet) - The Auteurs #20: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

© thevoid99 2013


Unknown said...

I've only seen Amelie from him. I'm getting Delicatessen soon. Never even heard of this film, so your review piqued my interest.

thevoid99 said...

It's definitely one of Jeunet's best films. I'm doing an Auteurs piece on him next month.

Unknown said...

Can't wait for it. Just from Amelie alone, I think he should be getting much more praise than he seems to receive. I'll definitely keep an eye out for it.

thevoid99 said...

@Teddy Casimir-He's definitely one of the best filmmakers working right now. He's got a new film coming out later in the year.

Anonymous said...

I love this film! One of the first foreign films I can remember seeing (our French teacher showed it to us when I was about 10) and I don't think I've ever come across anything quite like it - the perfect mix of darkness and whimsy in a completely original world. Good review :)

thevoid99 said...

@ccpopculture-Thank you. I'm glad you saw this at 10 years old. It needs to be seen more by the masses.