The City of Lost Children (1995)

Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, Judith Vittet, Dominique Pinon,
La cité des enfants perdus is a movie starring Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, and Judith Vittet. A scientist in a surrealist society kidnaps children to steal their dreams, hoping that they slow his aging process.
  • 7.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Gilles Adrien, Guillaume Laurant, Writer:
  • Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Director:
  • Félicie Dutertre, María Victoria Hebrero, Producer:

Trailer:

9 / 10

a feast for the imagination

I can't help myself: I adore this film. I freely accept that it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea; if pushed, I might even accept that it's not perfect. But there's no film I love more, or more enjoy re-watching. One caveat though: I've seen both the subtitled and the dubbed print, and the English dubbing frankly comes close to ruining the movie. Ron Perlman dubs himself and is fine, and some of the other adult English actors are perfectly OK, though they tend to be blander than the French originals. But most of the children are terrible, and with her own voice it's Judith Vittet's extraordinary performance (all the more extraordinary considering she was nine at the time) that helps give "La Cité" the genuine emotional centre that some viewers don't feel it has.

But I'll come back to that. In any version, at least Jeunet and Caro's astonishing visual flair and artistry come over. I can't think of a film that has such a concentration of memorable shots - time and again, especially watching on DVD with a freeze-frame facility, you realize how many beautiful compositions Jean-Pierre Jeunet gives us: though the cast of characters could easily fill a freak show, and the sets are dark and quite unglamorous in themselves, the cinematography is gorgeous and the mise-en-scène often strangely elegant. It has a look all of its own, perfect for a modern, urban fairy-tale. The music too is gorgeous, one of the finest scores by David Lynch's regular musical collaborator, Angelo Badalamenti.

"Fairy tale" is I think the best generic starting-point for this film, so long as you think Grimm rather than Disney. (Unlike "Delicatessen", it isn't really a comedy, though it has comic elements). And the plot works according to its own logic, even if the progression from scene to scene is occasionally a bit lumpy or obscure. Krank (the astonishing Daniel Emilfork), grown prematurely old because he cannot dream, uses a cult of blind, messianic preachers to abduct children from a decaying industrial port and steal their dreams - but they have only nightmares, and Krank falls ever deeper into despair and evil. It's up to the orphan pickpocket Miette and a none-too-brainy circus strongman, One, to put a stop to him. This rich idea is elaborated with all sorts of visual conceits and eccentric characters - Jeunet mounts, for example, a couple of astonishing sequences in which chains of unlikely effects proceed from the smallest of causes - but never at the expense of the central relationship of One and Miette.

In a sense Miette, like Krank, has grown old too fast: the orphaned street-children of this city are savvy and unsentimental, and never seem to have had a childhood; meanwhile there's something deeply childish, in various ways, about most of the adults. Sensitively directed and never overacting, Judith Vittet's Miette gradually thaws, and Ron Perlman brings a lot of sympathy and pathos to what could have been an oafish, cartoonish role: Jeunet gives plenty of space and subtlety to their gradually-developing friendship, and dares to do what I suspect no English director would dare to do at the moment, which is to make their relationship innocently sexualized. Neither of them is really a grown-up, but it's still an extremely risky move, exploring the first stirrings of pre-pubescent sexuality while trying not to be exploitative or prurient. I do think the film pulls it off, though I can imagine some viewers feeling distinctly uncomfortable with it. For me it's one of the most convincingly unsentimental and nuanced (if mannered) portrayals of childhood I've ever seen on the screen, and there is real compassion and tenderness along the way, as well as some darker twists and turns.

It's a film that rewards analysis if you're prepared to surrender to its strange world with its strange rules. But it rewards the senses and the emotions too - and it radiates love of cinema as the perfect medium for sophisticated fantasy. One elderly actress who appears towards the end (Nane Germon) acted - as Jeunet's DVD commentary points out - in Jean Cocteau's "La Belle et la Bête" about fifty years earlier (there are, by the way, distinct references to the Beauty and the Beast story here), and "La Cité des enfants perdus" deserves to join that film as one of the classic cinematic fairy-tales. Pity about Marianne Faithfull over the closing credits, though!

10 / 10

My all time favorite

The City of Lost Children is my all time favorite movie. It is unlike anything I've ever seen or experienced before. It's a movie that I hold dear to my heart and will never forget. I have to be honest though, the first time I saw this movie, I really didn't like it at all. The story was too confusing, and the characters were extremely weird and twisted. After watching it a second and third time, however, I understood what was going on more, and could spend more time looking at the visuals rather than the subtitles. Speaking of visuals, this movie has it in spades. The environment that Jean-Pierre Jeunet created is out of this world. The city is very dark and the water looks as if there are secrets hidden within. The mood the soundtrack sets is perfect for the scenery and the superb acting by everybody (including the kids) just adds to the greatness of this flick. I highly recommend this movie, it's one of those movies that you will never forget watching, and the images will stay in your head for a very long time. A beautiful, beautiful, movie. 10/10

9 / 10

C'est magique!!!

I'm a fan of fantasy films. It's a mixed bag of a genre on all truth. Very rarely are there any great fantasy films. There are good ones or average ones that can merely get by on their looks. I do love the fact that fantasy films can paint such vivid and imaginative picturesque settings. As an example look at Legend. That was one of the best looking films ever made but the content of the film was not great. It was poorly scripted with hokey dialogue and a storyline aimed at 5 year olds, with creatures and effects that would scare the pants off younger children.

Now you look at the best ones and the rare ones that can be called classics with greats of other genres like Lord Of The Rings and in a more Sci-fi orientation, Star Wars. City Of The Lost C children is a French fantasy aimed at a more mature audience member, from 15 up really. It looks fantastic. The sets, the costumes, the effects, the cinematography turn this 15 million dollar film into something looking far more epic and majestic in scope. Jean Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro take joint plaudits and credit as directors, Jeunut more responsible visually and Caro for the character and story. This is endlessly imaginative and immensely enjoyable and is very quirky.

The story centres around a mad scientist, Krank, who is unable to dream, because of this he is aging quickly and is old beyond his year. He grows insane and has developed a technique to view and capture children's dreams so he can thereby inject them into his own mind. He kidnaps children from the nearby village and brings them to his lair, a king of oilrig in the middle of surrounding sea. He is aided by his brothers who are four identical clones of each other, unfortunately they all suffer from narcolepsy. Krank himself is a clone. His father who created them is now merely a brain in a tank and Krank was an unfortunate mistake who doesn't dream. The only clone who was right is an enigma called the original who has long since escaped the insanity of this evil lair only to be living underwater and a kind of insane junk collector. One day strong man, One, and his little brother are ambushed by Krank's men and One's little brother is kidnapped. Thus far Krank's captives have proved unsuccessful in his quest for a cure, because they all suffer terrible nightmares, partly due to his own nastiness. All this latest young victim responds to is food, he seems to have no fear and it seems he could be the one, just as long as Krank keeps feeding him. One sets out on a quest to find his brother meeting Miete, a young a troublesome orphan girl in the process. It's all good fun this film and while the story is simplistic it's a kind of delightfully Grimm fairytale sort of story that keeps your interest.

The cast are great. Ron Perlman is one of those cult actors who everyone seems to like and he has hit it big with the recent success Hellboy. He is a strong presence and unlike many musclemen of his stature he can act, something which has held him back somewhat because people have never really cast him as a leading action man, although in truth he's not blessed with good looks. The interestingly named Rufus, a Juenet stalwart is also very good as the clones, while Daniel Emilfork is excellent as Crank. Also good and a charming innocence is Judith Vittet as Miette.

Anyone who loves a visually stunning movie should watch this film it looks amazing. The sets, the impressionistic and exaggerated designs are brilliant. It is typically French in it's verve. This is a fantasy fans wet dream, believe me! ****

8 / 10

It's so bizarre that it's beautiful; it's so illogical that it's funny; it's so dark that it's so sweet.

It's so bizarre that it's beautiful; it's so illogical that it's funny; it's so dark that it's so sweet. That's The City of the Lost Children. The plot it's that the evil -and weird- Krank (Daniel Emilfork) kidnap children to stole their dreams due to the lack of his ability of dream. Or at least he did it, until it came One (Ron Perlman), in the search of his adoptive little brother, aided by Miette (Judith Vittet), a street smart orphan child.

In technical aspects it's a master piece. The decoration give a baroque sensation of always being in small places, yet it's a full city populated of bizarre characters as the story itself.

The acting it's great. I'm quiet impressed for the flawless french that Ron Perlman show us, he's just simply astounding. I cannot say less of Judith Vittet, that being a child in that time she was a tremendous actress. The two have a good chemistry as a girl mature as an adult and a grow up man with the innocence of a kid.

I can't say that this is a movie that everyone would like, because it's not. It have a little of nonsense that might be not of the like of all the public. And all the dark atmosphere might be a little suffocating. So, take the risk and watch it, and then decide: you love it, or you hate it.

10 / 10

Wonderfully Bizarre

Written for English class my freshman year in high school.

Lights! Camera! Action! What makes a good movie? Better yet, what makes a great movie? In my opinion, a great movie should include almost flawless acting, a finely woven and gripping plot, music that is both beautiful and suitable, and great direction. Of course, mesmerizing visuals and art direction can also contribute to great films. So, for all the reasons above, I consider "The City Of Lost Children" the best film of 1996.

The plot of "The City Of Lost Children" is completely original and it never lets your mind wander off to other places. It also involves quite a few fascinating and somewhat weird characters in a dreary harbor town called "The City Of Lost Children" (hence the title). One(that is his name) is a slow-minded circus strongman who searches for his adopted little brother who has been kidnapped by a group of henchmen with robotic eyes called the Cyclops. One's little brother has been kidnapped and taken to a quickly aging mad scientist named Krank so that his dreams may be stolen. The mad scientist needs the dreams of children so that he will not age so quickly. The source of this problem is a curse that was put upon him. Because of this curse, his wife is a midget, he cannot dream, and he has seven identical sons (all of whom have a strange sleeping disorder). In this movie there is somewhat of a subplot that involves a wicked pair of unseparated siamese twin sisters. These women run a sort of school where they have the children in it steal for them. One small, but tough, girl named Miette runs away from the school, finds One, and aides him in his search. When the two women find out about their little thief, they go to Marcello, a retired man who used to run a circus freakshow, to get what they need to catch and kill the little girl and her newfound friend. Although this plot seems a bit hard to follow, it all fits together perfectly in the end with wondrous results. To accompany this odd story, there is a beautiful soundtrack composed by Angelo Badalmenti with one song ("Who Will Take Your Dreams Away") by Marianne Faithful. This music fits the mood and plot of the story perfectly and stays with you(as does the movie itself) long after the credits have rolled.

The casting director of "The City Of Lost Children", Pierre-Jacques Benochou, sure knew what he was doing, because there is not one poor (or mediocre one, for that matter) performance in the whole film. In fact, I might just say all the performances were virtually flawless. Ron Perlman's performance as the slow and dimwitted circus strongman One is beautifully acted. Mr. Perlman should especially be recognized because he is an American actor and this is a subtitled French film. Daniel Emilfork as the depressed and dreamless mad scientist with a short temper is outstanding and most believable. Dominique Pinon is wonderful (perhaps the best actor in the whole movie) as the seven rubberfaced identical brothers (yes, he does play all of them, and with fantastic results, too). The two different actresses who portray the siamese twins, Odile Mallet and Genevieve Brunet, are perfectly wicked and their timing is impeccable. Last, but not least, the children, with Judith Vittet as Miette in a stand-out performance, all carry out their roles with smashing results.

Another reason for me choosing "The City Of Lost Children" as the best movie of 1996 is its stunning direction. This movie was directed by the famous French directing team of Jean Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro(a.k.a. "Jeunet and Caro"). The camera angles that are used during the course of this film are a totally different experience and they keep you mesmerized from start to finish. The directors of this film are, in my opinion, masters of the camera. The visuals in this movie also contributed to my conclusion that this is the best movie of 1996. Whatever it might have been, whether the bleak and unique use of colors or the special effects, I was absolutely captivated by what I was seeing on the screen. What I particularly liked about this film's special effects was that they were not the typical flashy and in-your-face computer special effects that some of today's blockbusters and other genre films seem to have. I think such special effects distract you from the rest of the movie. On the contrary, the special effects of "The City Of Lost Children," however, are very subtle. A final thing I liked about this film were its sets. From the waterlogged streets of the dank and moldy town to the spectacular gadgetry of Krank's laboratories everything was a magnificent panorama for the eye to behold.

Was the plot great? Yes. How was the acting? Outstanding. Was the direction done well? Definitely. How did the visuals appear? They were beautifully presented. From what you have read, whether you have concluded to avoid this movie completely or go out and rent it right away (I do understand that this movie does have a select audience), I am hopeful that you understand the picture I am trying to paint. Even if the story will not appeal to you, it is still splendidly done. Overall, though, "The City Of Lost Children" is definitely the best movie of 1996 for me.