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Film Review by Sedai

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A system of cells interlinked
The City of Lost Children

Jeunet and Caro

Unique. That is one word to describe the 1999 dark fairy tale The City of Lost Children by surrealist pair Juenet and Caro, the Belgian directing team that brought us Delicatessen and Amelie (as well as Alien Resurrection, which was a sole effort by Juenet). Dystopic cityscapes, warped dream sequences, and absolutely stunning visual effects all combine with some well played roles to bring the viewer on a bleak but hopeful adventure. When a little girl and a circus strongman (played wonderfully by Ron Perlman) set off to rescue a small boy who has been captured by the malicious Krank, a madman who can't dream bent on stealing the dreams of children.

Many times during the film I was taken aback by the absolutely stunning and original photography and set design that just fills this film from first frame to last. Alice and Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Journey to the Center of the Earth. I was reminded of all these classic tales while watching, as this film instills that same sense of wonder that one got when watching/reading these classics as a child.

Not to mention the bizzare cast of characters that the unlikely duo meet on their journeys. From a conjoined twin who exploits children, to a drunken sideshow flea circus master, to the borg-like henchman of the sinister Krank, these characters come to life and whisk you away for an hour and a half to a dark and dreamy land rich with unique artistry.

One scene sticks in my mind, which starts with the shedding of a single tear, which sets into motion a chain of events that are expertly and artfully filmed in a two minute sequence that is one of the most creative and beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed. Really, watching this film for the art and set design alone is worth the time.

If there is a flaw in the film, it's that the story moves at an erratic pace and is not clearly set down for the viewer. Some of the people I watched it with were confused and annoyed at the loose style the story was told in. I get the feeling the european plot styling, which doesn't hit you over the head with storyline, might not be for everyone.

So if film that is more than story alone is your cup of tea, give this adventure a try. It is a rewarding experience that really leaves an impression and shows just what a creative team can do with a good cast, great imagination, and a camera. We watched the film in the original french with subs, I recommend doing the same.
"There’s absolutely no doubt you can be slightly better tomorrow than you are today." - JBP

A system of cells interlinked

Antonia Bird

Picked this gem up recently. I had a dim recollection of the film from trailers at release etc. but couldn't remember hearing anything about it good or bad..

Set in 1800's wartime California, A half frozen, half starved man wanders into a fort in the mountains with a horror story of being trapped in a cave with a few others for three months. Apparently they tried to survive off what little nourishment they could find in the cave which only lasted for about a month. He goes on to say that after the food (which included shoes) ran out, they resorted to cannibalism and the survivor barely made it out of the cave without being eaten! He states a crazy colonel has a woman still trapped in the cave and something needs to be done fast. A search party is formed and they are off to save the woman. Soon they come to find not all is as the man said, and things start to get tricky....

This film is an experiment in genre blending. I'd have to say a somewhat successful one at that. By injecting some comic elements into the dialouge and screenplay, the film makers keep the film from taking itself too seriously, and puts the viewer in a state of acceptance for a few of the movies other ideas that aren't very realistic. Some supernatural idealogy is brought into the play that might have seemed way out of place in this otherwise mundane setting, but the comedy elements keep you in a light mood, and ready for anything this bizarre piece serves up. There is some tastey photography and the roles are well played, especially Colonel Ives. I do have a feeling the genre blending is going to make or break this film for many viewers.

Some might find the film to be a directionless mess with no clear cut footing in storytelling. It is not particularly hilarious, scary, or suspenseful. Ravenous is a unique blend of the three distinct genres that takes a few chances in architecture, but I think the rewards far outweigh the failings that some may find. Even the music rides this line, with a slightly corney banjo part that wriggles it's way into some scenes that would otherwise be disturbing and dark.

If I have any complaint, It would be that Guy Pierce is a bit subdued in this role and is outshined by his co-stars, albeit somewhat intentionally. He is sort of a brooding victim of a past trauma (which plays into the story) and he plays up the whole "I am the the brooding guy" trip. It might just be this guys demanor, as he was sort of subdued in Memento as well.

A system of cells interlinked

Jean Pierre Jeunet

Ah, Amelie. How I already miss her. The bat of an eyelash, the quirky smile. Juenet has done it again. Putting the sci-fi on the shelf this time, Juenet brings us a wonderful story about a young french waitress who is about as shy as they get. She works is a small cafe' near her flat in Paris, and you may be wondering just why this girl would be interesting or filmworthy at all. Well, it is not what she does for a living or her ravishing good looks (although she is quite charming and alluring in her cute little way). Amelie notices people, lonely people. From her depressed father to a hermetic painter with a rare bone disorder (although not too rare, as a character in another film from the same year suffered the same ailment), Amelie takes it upon her self to change these people's lives for the better.

Not long after starting her little mission of the heart, she gets caught up in the lives of the people she has chosen to help, and becomes involved in a little mystery of her own. AA lost backpack with a well-cared for but unique photo collection draw her to an enigmatic man who has been visiting the photo booths in train stations and other public areas, only to tear his photo's up and throw them to the ground. She make's it her personal goal to find this man whop seems so unhappy learn more about him. Soon she is faced with her own failings in life and we the viewers begin to see that Amelie also needs some new direction, and we are on the journey to achieve this with her. We can not help but go along for the ride....

Another masterwork from Jeunet. That is what springs to my mind whenever I think about this film. It's been a few weeks since I watched it, but the film is still fresh in my mind. The sets, the direction, the acting, the atmosphere. Everything comes together and just works to bring the viewer into Amelie's heart and mind. The clever ways that Amelie helps people are heartwarming and funny, while still carrying an important message that Juenet made sure was present at all times, that even people with a heavy weight upon their shoulders can have the burden lightened with the smallest of thoughts or actions. She brings her father, who is in a funk of depression and suffers from a tremendous lack of motivation back into life with an extremely clever, but simple idea that she has to put very little effort into at all. She also exacts a little justice on a mean-spirited grocer who really does deserve it

As with most Jeunet pieces, the production design is incredibly creative, with original ideas and images appearing at every turn. This has to be one of the most well-crafted feel good pieces I have ever seen, and I am usually not a fan of the genre. I would have to say it could be one of the best films, period, that I have ever seen. The impression it leaves is priceless and this movie can turn any glum morning into a cheery afternoon. I have neglected to mention some of the plot points and mechanics used in the film, because I would hate to ruin any of the surprises this film has in store for any of you folks who haven't seen it yet. So run out and rent/buy Amelie! I can't recommend it enough and I doubt it would disappoint anyone.

One of my top 10 favorite films of all time!

I highly recommend checking out Holden's thread on this film as well:

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's AMELIE

Mother! Oh, God! Mother! Blood!
Great reviews, Sedai!

I was one of those people who got a little lost in the storyline of The City of Lost Children. However, as you stated, the visuals are incredible. Very interesting film, and certainly worth watching for the style alone.

I, too, have a slight recollection of Ravenous. Thanks for reminding me about this film. I've put it on my "to see" list! I'll trust your recommendation

Amelie is as wonderful as wonderful could possibly be. I've talked to friends who stay away from foreign language films, but they LOVE Amelie! Not only is the character and story unique, but once again, the camera, editing, and style is amazing.

Good job, Sedai! Anytime you want to join LordSlaytan and me at Movie Reviews 4 Fun, you're more than welcome!
NEW (as of 1/24/05): Quick Reviews #10

I've read and, I believe, commented on all these reviews before, but I am glad you consolidated them. I like your style and taste in films reviewed.

I especially like your review of Amélie. Now I know for sure that you’re not an alien from another planet. To hate this movie is an obvious sign of that condition.

Great reviews! Keep ‘em coming! Please!
"Today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids."

The Mad Prophet of the Movie Forums
Nice reviews! I especially liked the one on Ravenous, a film I've been eyeing for some time now.
"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" - Howard Beale

A system of cells interlinked
Thanks folks, I really appreciate the comments on these somewhat older reviews I did. This weekend I watched quite a bit of film and will post reviews on at least one of the films, hopefully later today. Again, thanks for the support.

Put me in your pocket...
Nice reviews all around Sedai. I haven't seen the first two, but I've seen Amelie and I loved it. Definately a heart warmer. Nice job!

I can't wait to see what you're writing next.

A system of cells interlinked
To Live

Yimou Zhang


I felt a summary review was necessary for this film, please skip to the bottom for the final ratings to avoid spoilers if you choose.

To live, the basic need of humanity. Yimou Zhang brings us a story of one Chinese family, and the triumph and tragedy that befalls them over a period of approximately fifty years. The film follows the lives of Feng Gui, who begins the film as a compulsive gambler in the 1940's. In the opening scenes, Feng Gui loses his home and in doing so, his family. This is bad for Feng, but we find out it could have been worse, as if he had kept going the way things were, he would have been put to death for his actions as a landlord. Now without hearth and home, Feng is forced to look to make a living, to live, in whichever way possible.

Feng Gui "aquires" some puppets and begins a puppet show in earnest, not only to keep his sanity and food in his stomach. Again, at first this seems like a struggle, which it is, but we are shown things could have been worse once again for Feng, as he manages to stay on the sidelines of some political infighting that gets bloody fast, also managing to bring laughter and joy to many of the downtrodden chinese soldiers. Feng manages to stay alive by following his new, and more honest, path. During the dicing scene his wife begs him to stop playing, before he loses everything, and he makes what appears to be the incorrect choice to continue, indeed losing everything he had at that point, but the choice turns out to be better in the end. With the puppets, he makes what appears to be the correct choice, and it does in fact turn out to be the correct choice. This showcases that no matter what choices we make, fate can have an impact no matter what and redefine our lives.

Again time passes, and Feng Gui is once again reunited with his lost family, now a changed man. The new party is also gaining strength, and the family devotes themselves to the party. It is not long before another difficult choice presents itself to Feng Gui. The party requires work from the family, and Feng Gui must make the choice whther to send his exhausted son to work, therefore staying in excellent favor with the party, or refusing to send his son, and letting him get the rest he desperately needs. He chooses the party over his son, and pays dearly. Another example of choice making all the difference, but this time fate has little to do with the sons death due to lack of rest on the job. The family is crushed once again, but they stick together an press on, holding their daughter Fengxia tightly. They manage to live and overcome once again.

Things go well for some time and a marriage is arranged between Fengxia and a half-lame red guardsman Wan Erxi. Wan Erxi, the family, and the town leaderperson (they never give an official title, or I missed it) are all extremely dedicated to the new party, and show their support by having festivals and even painting portraits of the party leader on the walls of their home. The wedding goes off, and things are good for a short time until once again event take a turn for the worse as the red party begins to arrest local townsfolk as capitalist roaders. Many leaders, physicians, and scholars are arrested and ridiculed publicly, including the leader of the small town the family resides in. The family knows things are amiss when the town leader gets taken away, as his support for the party had been exemplary, and if he could get taken away, anyone could. This chapter in the families lives comes to a close with tragedy again, as Fengxia is brought to the hospital to have her child, only to find the staff comprised completely of medical students, as all the doctors have been taken away by The Party. Feng Gui attempts to find a doctor and bring him to help, but days of starvation put the old doc out of commision just atthe wrong time. As you would imagine, students aren't doctors, and the family once again faces the loss of one member, even as a new life enters the circle.

The film wraps up with what is left of this battered family traveling to the grave of Fengxia, happily, to visit and share family time with the new grandson. Erxi and his son face a hard life ahead, but with all they have endured, we feel confident that they will indeed, live.


This is a wonderful, if not sad film. I felt moved by it numerous times and can find little flaw in story, acting, and pacing. I did feel the cinematography a bit flat, but I think the locale had something to do with it, all gray walls and brick in the villages. All the characters were believeable and the hardships and hopes of this family become yours while you watch. I was also a big fan of all the fate/choice concepts interwoven throughout, and wanted to convey some of the concepts in this review, hence the summary format this time. This director masterfully peppers his film at regular intervals with these concepts and I find this to be one of the film's main strengths. Even if you read the summary (which is very light in comparison to the storythreads in the film), I still recommend viewing the film as it has much to offer. I plan on watching it again soon.

Put me in your pocket...
Nice review and a great choice Sedai. I LOVED this movie. You’re’s wonderfully done and for me a tremendous heart breaker on may levels. My only disagreement is the Overall B-....for me it’s an A+.

As a wife and heart went out to Gong Li’s character Jiazhen. From the moment she tries to confront her husband with his gambling addiction, to leaving him, eventually taking him back....trying to stand up to him where their son is concerned (several times), dealing with the aftermath and emotions towards the family friend, marrying off her daughter that has a disabilty, to her watching what happens to her beloved daughter and not being able to do anything to help her. This is one of the most moving movies I’ve ever seen.


Another part that moved me to tears is when the family friend comes to them saying his wife left him and basically insinuates he has nothing else to live for...Jiazhen steps forward and reminds him he still owed her a life. He wasn’t to take his own.

She was a remarkable woman...I loved her character.

A system of cells interlinked
Great points. I meant to mention her performance in my review but I didn't type it out for some reason. The birth scene with Fengxia was indeed heart rending. Also, know that my B- came about because of cinematic issues, and I had no problems with the acting/story. I just felt a lot of the locales were drab. I'm sure this was on purpose, to highlight the communist society, but I still felt I had to knock a couple points, I guess I am just a sucker for good photography/interestingly shot scenes.

Thanks for reading, and I'm glad you liked this film!!!


Put me in your pocket...
Originally Posted by Sedai
Great points. I meant to mention her performance in my review but I didn't type it out for some reason. The birth scene with Fengxia was indeed heart rending. Also, know that my B- came about because of cinematic issues, and I had no problems with the acting/story. I just felt a lot of the locales were drab. I'm sure this was on purpose, to highlight the communist society, but I still felt I had to knock a couple points, I guess I am just a sucker for good photography/interestingly shot scenes.

Thanks for reading, and I'm glad you liked this film!!!

You're welcome. It would be hard to touch on everything in that movie. I'm just a sucker for tearjerkers. You did a very nice job with your review Sedai.

Nice review, I really liked it. I made one for this film as well. I disagree with your assessment in regards to the cinematography though. I thought it was gorgeous. It can't be helped that during those times and places depicted in the film, there was little color, or that things seemed drab, because that’s the way it really was then. Even though I love movies with brilliant colors and lots of flair (Amélie for example), I don’t necessarily have to have that sort of stimuli in order to appreciate the cinematography. I appreciate these stark visuals for their realism and in filming it that way this movie excels brilliantly. Yet, to each his or her own, it’s all a matter of taste, not if one is right or wrong.

Regardless of that minor issue, in the end, this movie isn't about how beautiful the landscape is, but about how love can see people through tragedy and that regardless of what happens in life, there are still reasons To Live.

A system of cells interlinked
Secret Window

David Koepp

*Minor spoilers*

This weekend I was on a mission. My mission was to avoid any and all information regarding Secret Window, the stylish David Koepp thriller that opened here in the Boston area this past Friday. A writer (Johnny Depp) who lives in a cabin in the woods, begins getting stalked by a strange man (John Turturro) who claims this writer has stolen his story. The trailer for this film had caught my eye a few months ago, and I remember thinking it had the appearance of a film that had all the right elements in it’s equation to perhaps amount to something greater than the sum of it’s wonderful parts. Moody, surreal lighting, spooky locales, a solid director with some impressive films under his belt, and not one, but two of my favorite actors portraying main characters. Johnny Depp and John Turturro squaring off in a film inspired by Secret Window, Secret Garden, a novella found within the 1990 Stephen King release, Four Past Midnight. My interest was peaked, to say the least.

I was mostly successful in my mission, and having not read the novella, I arrived at the theater with almost no foreknowledge of the film whatsoever. Into the seats we go, and just in time for the feature, I prepare myself for some wide eyed suspense. The film delivered on the suspense, I must admit, but unfortunately, it came up a bit short in some other areas. My biggest issue was with the gimmick ending, which I’ll get to shortly, but first I feel I have to mention how many times I found myself thinking of other films while watching. From Friday the 13th, to Fight Club, to Stephen King’s own The Dark Half, I was constantly being whisked from one derivative scene to another and I kept getting the feeling that at any moment either Jason Vorhees or George Stark would come lurching out of the cabin.

That said, the film has quite a few strengths I would like to mention before wrapping up with a couple of comments about the ending. Depp and Turturro both deliver in spades. Depp’s performance as the manic, reclusive writer, Mort Rainey, is all at once comedic and unnerving, while Turturro transforms himself into a wild-eyed hick by the name of John Shooter, with a dark stare that chills to the bone. Hutton et al., however, are for the most part underused and flat, and don’t log much screen time. The cinematography was well done, and I found myself drawn into the eerie mood quite a few times during the film, the dark and somewhat minimal symphonic score adding to these scenes considerably. The cabin was quite spooky and the scenes shot within were well done and had knots in my stomach a couple times, so again the suspense is one of the highlights of this film.

About four minutes after the introduction of Turturro’s character, I knew how the film was going to end, or more precisely, I knew the gimmick that would be used at the end of the film. About four seconds after finding out the name of Turturro’s character, I figured out the other gimmick that would be used at the end of the film. It seemed to me the director just wasn’t giving his audience much credit, as the clues he gave the audience seemed like anvils to me. Perhaps if Mr. Koepp had taken a more subtle approach with his hints the film would really have been something, as this was my main problem with the movie almost from the get go.

I must also mention an irritating story thread where Mort can’t get his hands on a copy of a magazine he desperately needs and seems to have way too much trouble getting a copy. Why not check the internet or the library, or perhaps call the publisher of the magazine to get a back copy? I kept asking myself this question throughout the movie and only after viewing the ending did I understand that this was not an oversight after all, but a necessary omission, as in order to set up the trick ending, they couldn’t have anyone doing something as far fetched as ordering a back copy of a magazine until it was time for the film to end.

Overall I enjoyed Secret Window and would recommend the film for a fun night out, but I doubt many will find themselves drawn to watch it a second time to figure out the intricacies of the plot.

Great review Sedai … Thanks for sharing… I was curious about Secret Window but have been trying to decide whether to see it in the theater or wait for the DVD…
You never know what is enough, until you know what is more than enough.
~William Blake ~

AiSv Nv wa do hi ya do...
(Walk in Peace)

I agree with the performance factor but, the review? As Cait says, thanks for sharing with us's written well, yet I disagree with it thoroughly (the 4th and 5th paragraph actually).
Although in general, your reviews are great to read and a positive addition to the review section of MoFo.

A system of cells interlinked
Check the VB script page for the new addition

As for your comments on the review JRS, thanks for reading as always, and it's okay to disagree, as it's only my opinion of the film. You pinpointed the last couple of paragraphs, which contained my opinion of the ending and what I considered a misuse of hints. You didn't find those clues to be painfully obvious? Also, did you not find the entire idea of the film derivative of The Dark Half in general? Again I really liked some of the technical aspects of the film, I loved the performances by Turturro and JD, and Dutton for the small time he was used anyway. I felt the writing was subpar for the most part though. Reading Beale's review It seems he perceived a lot of the same flaws I did. I usually try to watch a film twice before reviewing it, but this time around I just felt I had seen enough of this one, usually an indicator of a flawed film, for me anyway.

Anyway, thanks for the comments and thanks for reading

Originally Posted by Sedai
Check the VB script page for the new addition

You didn't find those clues to be painfully obvious? Also, did you not find the entire idea of the film derivative of The Dark Half in general? Again I really liked some of the technical aspects of the film, I loved the performances by Turturro and JD, and Dutton for the small time he was used anyway. I felt the writing was subpar for the most part though. Reading Beale's review It seems he perceived a lot of the same flaws I did. I usually try to watch a film twice before reviewing it, but this time around I just felt I had seen enough of this one, usually an indicator of a flawed film, for me anyway.

Anyway, thanks for the comments and thanks for reading
I did, yes, find it similar to The Dark Half. I did not disagree on your thoughts on your toughts on the technical aspect, performances, or writing at all though.
As for the VB Script Page, I don't want to sound like an idiot but where is it?