Wednesday, March 9, 2011

City of Lost Children--a review

20 minutes into this movie I excused my husband who was sighing loudly while watching it with me, as if the film itself were slowly extracting his teeth with no anesthetic. I asked him what the problem was. "Nothing's happening!" he said, "This artsy movie is incredibly pretentious and I can't figure out what's going on." This is when, in so many words, I called him a fast food Philistine monkey, started the film over from the start and watched it alone, which I mostly prefer to do these days anyway. Though I do see his point.

Jeunet/Caro's film is pretty straight-forward if you process it and compartmentalize the surreal events that take place with a healthy dose of belief suspension topped with a heaping appreciation for the absurd. First off, there's a childlike strong man, One (played by the prolific Ron Perlman), whose voracious little brother has been kidnapped by a clan of one-eyed, robotic Naziesque henchman called Cyclops.


While he's searching for his brother, Perlman stumbles across an exploited-orphan thug racket trained by a pair of evil Siamese twins to pickpocket and pillage the town surrounding them dry. Eventually the evil twins need assistance when their main thief, Miette (played by nymphet Judith Vittet), goes awol with the lovelorn strongman puppy-dogging by her side, and forcefully commissions the aide of their former circus ringleader to employ his well-trained fleas to inject a mind-warping serum into the brains of their opponants, turning them into murderous zombies, killing anyone within arms reach.

While of of this is happening a skynest of six cloned mad scientists and their bald dreamless brother, along with their miniscule mother and uncle who's a brain floating in formaldehyde, are kidnapping children for their dreams, so that the dreamless brother can steal their dreams and dismantle his own premature aging, which is due to his stunted imagination from the lack of dreaming.


The sets built for this film are absolutely breathtaking. The atmosphere eerie and dreamlike. The characters are hopeless and well-buffered to the surviving in a dystopian world. Creating a universe like that from scratch deserves much praise for the courage and gumption involved to make a vision, such as City of Lost Children glow, amid dark-green, phosphorescent seas and steel-gray docklands.

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