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The City of Lost Children

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.