Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Movie Log: The City of Lost Children

As soon as I dropped The City of Lost Children into the DVD player, The Wife quipped "I guess 'short and funny' didn't last very long!" And I had to tell her that I had my brainstorm about short and funny while this was already on the way, so it doesn't count.

(Also not counting: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which we saw again on Tuesday night because The Wife wanted to, and good husbands indulge their wives, even when their wives just want to look at Paul Bettany in tight trousers for two hours.)

Now, City of Lost Children is not terribly long -- it doesn't quite reach two hours -- and it's not dour or anti-funny...but it's certainly not a laugh-riot. It's another one of those movies that I probably should have seen in the '90s, but somehow didn't.

It's a French movie, from 1995, starting Ron Perlman as a sideshow strong man named One (not "Un," the word "One" in English) and set in a grimy, industrial port that's not in our world. It's generally considered a fantasy, but I thought of it more in the soft science fiction category -- all of the oddities have at least pseudo-technological explanations, which is good enough for me.

Somewhere off-shore, the various flawed creations of a now-missing scientist are living: six narcoleptic clones, a midget woman who was originally intended to be the scientist's wife, a migraine-prone brain in a fishtank, and, ordering them all around, Krank, a man getting ever older because he cannot dream. A religious cult -- or posthuman order, or something in between -- called the Cyclopes put their own eyes out, each use a single mechanical replacement, and gather young children for Krank.

For Krank believes that, if he can just get the right dream from a child, he'll be able to dream himself -- or to grow younger, or perhaps both. But he's been doing this for some time with no luck.

Anyway, One has a "little brother," who gets kidnapped by the Cyclopes to get the plot going. One goes after him, and falls in with a band of child thieves, who work for their conjoined-twin teacher, the Octopus. One of the thieves, the girl Miette, abandons her friends to help One.

After some more bizarre adventures, including the return of that mysterious scientist, just about everyone ends up on the offshore platform where Krank and the rest live, and things come to a head. (More violently than I expected from a French movie, but less violently than would have happened in any American film.)

The story is reasonably straightforward, though based on odd and unlikely premises and set in a distinctly different world. Pretty much everyone who sees it calls it "visionary," which is shorthand for "amazing-looking, though I'm not really sure what it all means." I'll call it that as well; I don't know what to make of it, but it was certainly an experience.


Mimouille said...

Well you should mention who directed this movie, Jeunet et Caro, the same people (at least for Jeunet) to wom you owe the movies Amelie and Alien 4. You should see Delicatessen, one of their old movies, a bit violent and disturbing, but so great...

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Post a Comment