The City of Lost Children (1995) – Film Review

city of lost children film review

Directors: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Cast: Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, Judith Vittet
Certificate: 15

By Sarah Morgan

When it comes to creating stylish movies, few directors have done it better than Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

The French duo first met in 1974 at the Annecy International Film Festival and went on to make a series of short films before creating their first feature-length offering, Delicatessen, in 1991. Its success on the international stage meant they then had the power to green light their pet project – The City of Lost Children – which they had been thinking about since the early 1980s, but up until then had struggled to fund.

city of lost children film review cover“Difficult and dangerous”

Perhaps being made to wait benefited the production – it meant that not only had the pair been forced to spend time honing their skills on other projects, they were given more money with which to realise their idea.

At the centre of the story is Krank, an intelligent but nasty piece of work whose inability to dream is causing him to age prematurely. In an attempt to stave off the ageing process, he has children stolen from their everyday lives and transported to his lair on an abandoned oil rig, where he sets about stealing their nocturnal thoughts.

Unfortunately for him, he makes the mistake of taking in Denree, the adopted little brother of carnival strongman One – who refuses to let him go without a fight. One joins forces with plucky orphan Miette, and together they set about finding Denree, a task that proves both difficult and dangerous thanks to a variety of weird and not very wonderful characters, including malevolent twins, six clones and a disembodied brain, and leading to a showdown on the rig.

The story itself is just so-so; sadly it didn’t fully engage me for the entire running time. However, the style of the film is unforgettable, thanks in no small part to Jean-Paul Gaultier’s costumes and Caro and Jeunet’s steampunk style, which is punctuated by subdued primary and secondary colours.

city of lost children film review sewer

“Visually stunning”

Listen out too for a fine score from the much-missed Angelo Badalamenti, who was used to creating soundscapes for visually stunning works – he remains best known for his collaborations with David Lynch.

Ron Perlman heads the cast as One, delivering a perhaps surprisingly sensitive portrayal. He’s matched by young Judith Vittet as Miette; it’s disappointing that she eventually gave up acting because she displays a maturity here that suggests she could have transitioned to more grown-up roles.

But the real shame is that The City of Lost Children was the last film to be co-directed by Caro and Jeunet. They collaborated on Alien Resurrection (Jeunet directed, while Caro worked on the custom and set design), and then went their separate ways. I, for one, would have liked to see what they came up with next.

The City of Lost Children is released on 4K UHD, BLU-RAY, DVD & DIGITAL

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