directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro
1995, in some ways, doesn’t seem all that long ago. In truth, it was probably 1996 when I last saw The City of Lost Children, the brilliant, crazy fantasy film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. It was, at the time, to my mind, one of the coolest, wildest fantasmagoria of contemporary cinema. It’s one of those films that became an art house and repertory cinema favorite, cult film par excellence. But strangely enough, I don’t know that I ever saw it again.
It is certainly some statement about how vivid the film’s imagery remained emblazoned in my mind, particularly the rubber face of Dominique Pinon as the multiplied narcoleptic assistants and the costuming and comic simplicity of Ron Perlman as the simple-minded strong man. The image of the tower in the sea, where the evil Krank (Daniel Emilfork), the weirdest, most withered-looking old man in the world, abducted children to steal their dreams.
The visual design of Jeunet and Caro’s two films, The City of Lost Children and Delicatessen (1991), epitomized the fantastique in the early 1990’s, ludicrous dreamscapes, worlds strange and vivid, characters bizarre, comical, full of whimsy and verve. As it turned out, these were the only two films that the duo produced together in this fashion, while Jeunet went to Hollywood to take a crack at the Alien franchise and then had his biggest hit back in France with his massively charming Amélie (2001). Still, nothing really quite achieved the pure wacky surrealism of The City of Lost Children.
It was for my children that I sought to see this film again. I’ve developed a trope of fantasy films, which I may be enjoying more than them at the moment, but has fueled a strong interest in delving further inroads into, and it seemed that this one was as good as many to tap.
The film is still a visual feast to me, a very enjoyable, odd, wonder. Clara enjoyed it; she’s been more open to variety and the unusual than Felix. In fact, Felix’s criticism of the film was that he found it hard to figure out who was “good” and who was “bad”, namely in the character of the flea circus assassin guy, Marcello, and the brain in the box (Uncle Irvin). I guess, perhaps, more incisively, the film is not a children’s film, though it’s about children and in many ways could be a film for children. Probably it was a bit harder to follow, certainly is stranger, and is not as cut and dried as many such films.
I still found it fantastic.