La Cité des enfants perdus (****)

(City of Lost Children)

(1995) dirs. Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet – Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, Judith Vittet, Mireille Mossé, Joseph Lucien, etc., and The City

Synopsis: The core story, maybe, is that there’s a mad scientist (of sorts) who, has… well, problems, as mad scientists are wont to have. Unable to dream, said mad scientist (Krank, played by Daniel Emilfork) sees a solution in kidnapping children and stealing their dreams. Except that all he gets are nightmares, the city being what it is and the children having the fears they do, and he wakes up from his stolen dreams, screaming. Tragic. But science marches onward, as does Krank, who (via his own motley ‘family’ which includes a number of clones a brain floating in a fish tank and an extraordinarily short woman, not to mention the ‘cyclopses’) kidnaps circus strongman One’s little brother (One being played by Ron Perlman and his little brother by Joseph Lucien). One is not happy about this, and desperately wants to find and rescue his little brother. One stumbles into a group of orphan thieves, befriends one of their ilk, Miette (Judith Vittet, who’s outstanding), who in turn agrees—eventually—to help One find his brother. Along the way lots of things happen, all of it taking place on the stage of the extraordinary dark and twisted city created by Jeunet and Caro.

Review: The sets in ‘City’ are nothing if not outstanding. And they’re outstanding. As are the numerous bizarre characters we chance upon throughout the course of the movie. Clones. Genius demented divers. I think I mentioned the cyclops characters already. Etc. etc. Anyway, there are lots of weird characters. There are points in the movie when you’re not even sure the plot’s there, and you think the movie might have gotten completely distracted, but it doesn’t really matter because the characters are so three-dimensional—four- and five-dimensional, some of them—and it’s really just an enjoyable film. Or I thought so, anyway. So maybe it isn’t entirely obvious if the city was created for the sake of the story or the story was created for the sake of the city, but either way, it’s wickedly creative and cleverly warped. Fantastic.

Rating: [••••] out of [•••••]